By Bimal Prasad Mohapatra
On June 6, 2021, The New Indian Express (Bhubaneswar) front page headline read “Mamata makes nephew TMC’s General Secretary” replicating what many national dailies might have written in their front page headlines in 1982 when then PM of India and Indian National Congress supermom Indira Gandhi made her elder son Rajiv Gandhi General Secretary of the grand old party with years of experience as ‘pilot’ in Indian Airlines, who in 1984 became PM of India ignoring claims of several senior and experienced leaders. Similarly, there might have news columns in national dailies in 1959 with headlines “Nehru makes daughter INC’s President”, which in fact was launch pad of dynasty politics in Indian democracy, just 13 years to nation’s independence and self-rule after centuries of invaders and colonial rules.
On June 23, 2019, The Hindu had a headline “Mayawati appoints brother, nephew to top BSP posts”. Later, Mayawati, who like Mamata is a spinster, clarified citing BSP founder Kanshiram’s commitment to remaining a bachelor all his life and keeping his family away from political posts for the sake of movement, her brother had offered to serve the party without any post. She argued she took the decision “so that no opposition party in the country or media can level allegations of promoting dynasty in the party like the Congress and others parties”.
On January 29, 2021, The New Indian Express news headline read, “AAP rewrites rule book to allow ‘family politics’, check on dissenters”. The paper writes, “Making a significant amendment to its internal constitution, the Aam Admi Party, during its national council, binned a provision that no one in the family of the party cadre shall be a member of any political outfit. According to the amended rule book, party members would not only be allowed to have their family members join political parties, but they can also enroll two or three of their kith and kin in the AAP”, thus cleared the huddle for dynasty politics in the party. AAP is the latest most successful political outfit, born out of septuagenarian simple minded Gandhian Anna Hazare’s hunger strike against corruption famously called India Against Corruption -long forgotten- entered into Indian political scenario with promise to revolutionarize Indian politics with new direction.
On May 19, 2021, opIndia.com has headline “Dynasty Politics: Pinarayi Vijayan appoints son-in-law Mohammed Riyaz, an accused in riots cases, as a minister in his cabinet”. Surprisingly Riyaz is first term MLA and he is appointed minister with a cabinet berth with prize portfolios of PWD and Tourism while all ministers from Pinarayi’s party in his previous government including Physics teacher-turn-politician and popularly known as Teacher K K Shailaja, praised all-round for her outstanding performance in controlling Nipah outbreak in 2018 and Covid-19 in 2020-21, and despite her win of just concluded Assembly election with highest margin of 60,000 votes among all MLAs in the state and support of party’s prominent central leader such as Prakash Karat, dropped. Political observer say that the axe fallen on Physics Teacher as she is found more popular than CM himself. Means the leading Left party, recently reduced as a regional political outfit as it lost its government of five consecutive terms in Tripura three years back and reduced to zero MLA in recently held assembly election in West Bengal where the party ruled for long seven consecutive terms decade back, and only survived in Kerala, the state known for change of ruling party in every five years but this time -thank to faction-ridden Congress party led by Rahul Gandhi in the election- that is Communist Party of India (Marxist), which has so far maintained safe distance from Indian Democracy’s cursed “Dynasty Politics” falls victim of the latter. It is matter of one or two years from now if not months that CPIM may have a fraction called CPIM (Pinarayi) like grand old party had got Indian National Congress (Indira) in late 1970s due to fight between party and PM for ultimate supremacy.
Now, already from north to south and from west to east, throughout the length and breadth of India, and from national capital to state capitals, there are dynasty politics with little exception. Except bachelor politicians such as PM Narendra Modi and Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, all others have chosen their family inheritors of their politics or otherwise called dynasty politics.
To note, except the Bharatiya Janata Party, there is no political party in India which does not have dynasty politics at top level. Among the top politicians in BJP from its foundation to till date such as Dr. Shyam Prasad Mukharjee, the founder of Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the earlier avatar of BJP, had not encouraged any of his five children to usurp the leadership of his founded party, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a bachelor and not chosen any family member to succeed him, his close colleague and party president for several terms L. K. Advani’s children are not in politics. And now BJP supremo PM Modi is a bachelor and so far, in his early seventies, he has not encouraged any member from his large family and relations to enter politics and take up his political legacy like Shushree Mamata and Shushree Mayawati have done.
Now, PM Narendra Modi has been found the most successful compare to any of his party’s former and present leaders consecutively getting elected to rule a state as CM for several terms and later as PM for consecutive two terms with absolute majority, rare outside the Nehru-Gandhi’s Congress since independence. And the most significant is: he has been to a great extent successful in decimating dynasty politics in Gujarat. Therefore, many political pundits in India and all political leaders irrespective of party affiliation are afraid that Modi if continue to be successful he is going to destroy dynasty politics in India, and this may be a reason why there is new found unit among all political parties’ irrespective party and ideological affiliations to fight Modi.
Majority of these dynasty parties have been successful like Modi mostly for reasons such as corruption and dynasty promotion anathema to democratic governance world over. Theirs corruptions have been well documented in the minds of citizens of India. And Modi has been in power without ever been defeated since he first sworn in as CM of Gujarat in 2001 because he is not corrupt and has no vested dynasty interest.
These dynasty parties can’t fight Modi on corruption as well as over dynasty issues. Therefore, they have chosen secularism, caste politics and minority appeasement to fight Modi. But slowly and steadily, the people of India have started understanding how far these parties are genuinely interested for secularism as seen in shrinking of minority vote shares of secularist vanguard such as Congress and Left, and for socio-economic development of lower castes and minorities as seen in shrinking of vote shares of castiest parties such as BSP, LJP, SP, etc., while vote shares of BJP increased among all categories of voters. The changes are seen in result of GE2014 and GE2019. Despite these changes, the future political fight will be between dynasties and Modi over secularism and caste politics as corruption issue against Modi govt does not exist. Another element, which is now found alienated due to non-dynasty Modi politics, is civil society members who are like politics mostly dynastic. Their joining of dynasty brigade in politics since GE2019 has made the fight further interesting.
(Author is Assistant Professor of Management Studies at Bhubaneswar based Trident Group of Institutions. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at email@example.com)