Millennium Post

Who shall inherit?

As the pulse of politics grapples over issue of dynasty, the more curious question is who shall inherit the legacy of political leaders like Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati, J Jayalalithaa, Naveen Patnaik, who have preferred the life of bachelorhood. Though Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar are married, Modi has lived all his life as a Sangh Pracharak, while Nitish Kumar had separated from his late wife. Kumar has a son from his marriage.

After a six-year legal battle that involved emotional arguments and a DNA test, veteran Congress leader ND Tiwari finally admitted that Rohit Shekhar is his son. He accepted Shekhar as his biological son at the age of 89 and started pitching for him to contest Lok Sabha poll from Nainital constituency in Uttarakhand. The Tiwari saga is plain and simple and he wants his political dynasty to swell further.

One is not objecting to the motives of veteran leaders when they pass on their political baton to their sons or daughters. The worry is for all those leaders who have cultivated their political fortunes and have no heirs to carry forward their names. These political personalities have successfully managed to create a whopping space for themselves in the Indian political system. However, most of them are either not married and even if they are so, these leaders have lived a life of bachelorhood.

Some such leaders are – Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa and last but not the least former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati. Every chief minister and former chief minister mentioned has the potential to become prime minister of the country provided they have the requisite numbers.

 The bigger question is that who shall inherit their well harvested political legacy? Narendra Modi, who is serving Gujarat as chief minister for the third consecutive term, is the creation of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and now the tallest figure in BJP. It is due to the backing of RSS that he has been anointed as the prime ministerial candidate of the party. The biggest mystery behind the 63-year-old Modi, who was born on 17 September 1950 to a family of grocers in Vadnagar in Mehsana district, is his relationship status. The world knows him as a ‘bachelor’ but it has been contested by some of his critics that he was once married to ‘Jashodaben’, when she was 18-year-old. A magazine brought out a story in 2009 that claimed that Jashodaben as Modi’s wife.

The published facts were never contested by Gujarat chief minister, which gives credence to the content of the article. The woman in question is a schoolteacher and lives in Rajosana village of Banaskantha district. It is said that Jashodaben does not like to be photographed as she believes she is not good looking. Not only this, she is conscious of Modi’s high position and does not want to create any embarrassment to Modi although she is hopeful that someday Modi will come to her and publicly accept her as his wife.

According to another popular story about Modi’s marriage, he got married during his childhood. It was a child marriage and Modi never met his wife again as the betrothal ceremony (gauna) never happened because Modi got attracted to RSS at the time and decided to remain ‘bachelor’ for the rest of his life. It is said that his wife also took a vow of celibacy for the rest of her life. The veracity of all these stories are yet to be fully ascertained as Narendra Modi has never presented his side of story.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who is in power in the state for the second consecutive term, is the product of JP movement of 1977. Known as the champion of socialist class of politics, Kumar learnt the lessons of politics under the tutelage of stalwarts like Jayaprakash Narayan, Karpoori Thakur, George Fernandes, SN Sinha and VP Singh. Kumar married to Manju Sinha, a schoolteacher by profession, on 22 February 1973 and have a son named Nishant.

Nitish Kumar’s marriage went haywire during the days of his political struggle. The reason for bitter marital discord was his political ambitions. Kumar’s financial condition was not good enough to fulfill his political needs.

Contemporaries of Nitish Kumar in Kalyanbigha say that despite all the odds, Kumar struggled a lot to nurture his political carrier. He managed to create a PM probable slot in the Indian politics. Riding on the development plank, even if Kumar manages to win a good number of Lok Sabha seats, will he be able to push his son to carry forward his political legacy? In the political circuit, the buzz is that Nishant doesn’t want to be associated with his father. He lives in CM house, but doesn’t ‘utilize’ the facilities of 1 Anne Marg (the CM house). A close friend of Nishant, who had studied with him in BIT, Mesra, explains that he maintain a distance from his father. The reason for his behaviour was none other than the bitter marital discord between his mother and father. ‘Nishant has created his own world. He lives a very simple life in that world only. He doesn’t even have mobile phone. The father-son relation somewhat improved after the death of Manju Sinha, Kumar’s wife. The political earning of Nitish Kumar will definitely be the savings of Nishant, if he opts to carry forwards the baton, the friend added.

Political experts have different views over the issue. They say it is not good enough to be the son of a politician. Heirs need to have will, wit and guts to control and manage the party. There are enough examples in the history which validate the argument such as Rahul Mahajan (son of Pramod Mahajan) and Rietesh Deshmukh (son of Vilasrao Deshmukh).

 Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik is still a bachelor at the age of 67. His attempts to bring in transparency in the system and his drive against corruption in high places, including his own party BJD, have given him the epithet of ‘Mr Clean’ and voted as the most popular chief minister. His father, Biju Patnaik, had kept his two sons and one daughter — the author Gita Mehta – far away from politics. Naveen Patnaik himself was known as a writer, a connoisseur of the arts, and a socialite in New Delhi— but not a politician.

 After his father’s death, Aska (Biju Patnaik’s assembly seat) sought a candidate from Biju Patnaik’s family, and Naveen stepped in. He founded the BJD and joined hands with BJP. Climbing on the sympathy for his dead father and BJP’s support, Naveen won the election. After that Patnaik, a graduate from Delhi University’s Kirori Mal College, has not lost a single set of elections in Odisha since he formed the BJD government in 2000. It is expected that he may win 2014 assembly elections too. As he is not married and his brothers and sisters keep distance from politics, he has not declared an heir. The buzz is that Jay Panda, Patnaik’s lieutenant, enjoys a special place.

 After talking about men, let’s look into a few bachelorettes, who have managed to firmly establish themselves in the corridors of national politics. The self-taught painter and poet, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, is the first woman to hold this office in the state. Banerjee uprooted the three-decade-old Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front government in West Bengal in 2011. The 59-year-old Banerjee has always maintained an austere lifestyle. She started her political career while being in the school and quickly rose through the ranks to become the general secretary of the state Mahila Congress in 1976. She has remained single throughout her life, so there is a question mark as to who would be her heir.

With the nomination of Abhishek Banerjee from Diamond Harbour seat in South 24 Parganas, Mamata has for the first time played dynasty card. The 25-year-old Abhishek Banerjee is the son of Mamata’s elder brother Amit. Political experts say that Mamata sees her successor in Abhishek.

After her nephew’s anointment, Mamata had said at the Trinamool workers’ meeting, ‘It has been his dream and desire since his childhood to be in politics. He has been in politics for years.’
 ‘I believe those born with a golden spoon should be in politics by being with the people, and not with the backing of anyone else,’ Banerjee had said defending her move.

 The present chief minister of Tamil Nadu is an important name too. Jayalalithaa is serving as the CM of the state for the third time. The 66-year-old protégé of MG Ramachandran believes in living life king-size. She has no child as she has remained single. Once she had publically ‘accepted’ the nephew of her friend-cum-confidant Sasikala Natarajan as her foster son. VN Sudhakaran is the lucky man, who enjoyed the blessings of Jayalalithaa in 1995, when he was plucked out of oblivion by the chief minister and was declared as her foster son. He was betrothed to actor Sivaji Ganesan’s granddaughter, Sathyalakshmi, and was married off in the most expensive and controversial wedding in the state’s history. The Jaya-Sasikala friendship was so intact that Jaya used to meet only those approved by Sasikala.

 The relationship turned sour after defeat in 1997 assembly election due to Sasikala’s infamous acts. In due course of time, friends turned foe and on 19 December 2011, Sasikala and 11 of her relatives were expelled from the AIADMK party and were asked to vacate CM’s house.

In Mayawati’s case, the buzz is that she has selected her successor, who is currently undercover. She will announce her heir at an opportune moment. It was reported in August 2008 that BSP supremo had a ‘secret’ successor in the name of Raja Ram who was the vice-president of the party. The constitution of BSP allows only one vice president in the party and it’s the vice-president who succeeds president in BSP. To downplay media reports, Mayawati sacked Raja Ram in haste and appointed Alok Kumar Verma as the new V-P of the party. Political experts say that Raja Ram is the ‘possible’ heir apparent to Mayawati.
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