D for democracy, not dynasty

Friends, Indians, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to declare that democracy has won in India, not that it has lost. I will now present some slices of the political life of India. That will show just how real democracy is in our nation. Facing imprisonment in the fodder scam, Lalu Yadav quit as Bihar CM and his wife Rabri Devi, a rank political non-entity with no experience in public service, was elected leader of his party in the Bihar assembly and CM of Bihar. Rabri’s brother Subhash Yadav is a former MP. Another brother Sadhu Yadav was an MLC, MLA and MP when Lalu and Rabri ruled Bihar. Why did I say they ruled Bihar?

‘Rule’ has a royal ring to it and royalties ended in India after Independence. But the media and common people continually addressed Lalu as ‘king’ of Bihar when he was in power in the state and he is still the ‘supremo’ of his party RJD. It was never said that Lalu is serving his state and his party, as he should be in a democracy. I have reason to believe the media and people would at least be getting basic vocabulary right. But these are minor issues and I am going into unnecessary details. After all, as the Bard said, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.

So was it democracy in Bihar in the case of Rabri becoming CM and her brothers becoming legislators? Or was it a case of neo-monarchy masquerading as democracy? Of course, countrymen, it was democracy because everybody knows that Rabri and her brothers were elected to their positions in the genuine democratic ethos of free and fair polls not influenced at all by matters of kinship. If it were not so, it would very well have been proved by now in a court of law.

Let’s take some more fond looks at how democracy thrives in all corners of India. Sheikh Abdullah was head of National Conference (NC) and CM of J&K. His son Farooq Abdullah was a political rookie when he became president of NC. He was elected CM of J&K when his father died. Farooq’s son Omar Abdullah held Union cabinet portfolios before becoming NC chief. At present Farooq is NC president and Omar is CM of J&K.  The electronic media referred to Omar’s elevation as NC chief as his tajposhi (Urdu for being crowned). Whatever is wrong with the media? ‘Crowing’ is all about royal ascension and NC announces on its website that it has “a separate constitution that guarantees inner democracy to strengthen a democratic system”. It was definitely free and fair elections that made Omar NC president and J&K CM. Elections that are not free and fair are annulled in India. That is what the law demands. And Omar’s election was not annulled. So it has to be free and fair, not swayed in any way by the undemocratic considerations of ‘dynasty’ and ‘high command’.

Charan Singh had stints as Uttar Pradesh CM, Union minister, deputy prime minister and prime minister. He was head of Lok Dal when he died. His son Ajit Singh became party chief after him. Ajit also got Union cabinet portfolios. At present he is a Union minister and president of Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD). His son Jayant Chaudhary is a Lok Sabha MP and RLD general secretary.

It would be fitting to mention some more outstanding leaders and important political parties that have contributed handsomely to make Indian democracy what it is today. While naming them I am bunching people of a family just to bring some method and order to the listing and not because I want to send a hidden message that family connections were crucial in the rise to prominence of the politicians named below. Here goes.

Devi Lal, his sons Om Prakash Chautala, Partap Chautala and Ranjit Chautala, and his party INLD. Om Praksah’s sons Ajay Chautala and Abhay Chautala. Mulayam Singh Yadav, his son Akhilesh Yadav, his brothers Shivpal Yadav and Ramgopal Yadav and their party SP. Biju Patnaik and his son Naveen Patnaik. Sheila Dikshit and her son Sandeep Dikshit. N T Rama Rao, his son-in-law Chandrababu Naidu and their party TDP. M. Karunanidhi, his sons M K Alagiri and M K Stalin, his daughter M K Kanimozhi, his nephew Murasoli Maran, his grandnephew Dayanidhi Maran and their party DMK. Bal Thackeray, his son Uddhav Thackeray and their party Shiv Sena. The family linkages of the political biggies named above show an interesting and remarkable facet of Indian politics that is a matter of sheer chance—politics runs deep in some families. It’s just freaky chance, nothing else. It is not a sign by any chance of the failure of democracy in India. Can anyone disprove that most of the time lineage plays no role in politics at all levels in India, from the panchayat to the Parliament, and also within the political parties on the electoral scene? By the way, why do the media call Rahul Gandhi yuvraj? The media keep mixing up their words. D in Indian politics is for democracy, silly, not dynasty.

Amit Shekhar is a senior journalist and columnist
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