How bad or good is Family, Dynasty and Clan Politics for Indian Democracy?

31 05 2009

Family, clan, dynasty, inheritance. There are just too many words doing the rounds about news on Indian politics. I was also a part of a panel discussion on a television show on the issue. And, today’s editorial said good morning with the same theme. Getting almost cliched. Albeit very important. The issue is where is the family and dynasty politics taking us and our politics. Where should the other deserving political aspirants go? And, if the family politics ensures a more stable government for a while, how long is the trend going to last?

The most important question, however, is do we have a solution. And, if we do, what alternatives can be there. My last blog saluted the Indian electorates for bringing in place a more stable government. For defeating many of the blackmailing forces of the Indian political fraternity. However, if this comes at the cost of genuine democracy and reinforces dynasty politics, a solution doesn’t appear in sight in the near future.

The Indian Parliament didn’t see as stable a coalition as this in more than two decades, except for the year 1991 (that too was probably an outcome of one of the most unfortunate and sad incidents of political history of Independent India). However, the results of the elections have been far more stunning than this aspect. The Indian electorate has also suppressed the goon & gun politics to a great extent this time. The local aspirants (petty but noticeable parties) who are always there in the fray for blackmailing and mileage in the aftermath of a hung Parliament, were also made to taste defeat. We’ll also miss the Left and its intellectual discussions in the Parliament, but that’s fine for what they did during the last LS term. Hopefully, this election’s results help them re-think their position and positioning in the Parliament.

What has emerged as the most stunning factor this time is the fact that It is again the heritage of Nehru and Indira that has helped the Parliament consolidate itself. And, nobody seems to be complaining as Rahul has emerged as the undisputed leader, representing the fourth generation and 5th important leader from the clan after Nehru, Indira, Rajiv and ‘remarkably’ Sonia factor. The nation has once again indicated the level of their reinforced faith in one family. But, there are at least over a dozen other prominent families who have made it to the headlines, for reinforcing the family and dynasty politics.

The tantrums of DMK’s Karunanidhi over his ‘kids’ Azhagiri, Stalin and others was witnessed silently by the rest of the nation. The Congress had little choice than giving in to the demands. Stalin was sworn in as the Deputy CM while other demands by Karunanidhi were placated. Then there is Agatha Sangama. Abdullahs from Kashmir, Scindias from Gwalior, Pilots representing the Gujjars and Hoodas from Haryana, Preneet Kaur from Punjab hogged the limelight too.

Then we have Yadavas from UP (Akhilesh & Shivpal of Mulayam), Rabri the wife of Lalu, Paswan brothers, NTR family and so on. The list is endless. And, so is the plight of the genuine political aspirants.

Today, the whole nation, editors, academicians and all the leading political parties have constantly exhorted the youth to look at and reform the fate of politics in the country. The question, however, is what is the future even if the youth today immerses more in the politics. Do they have a choice and hope to expect a ticket for all their drive and dedication for the Junta and their political party. What if at the end of all their efforts and at the time of ticket distribution, the party decides to allocate ticket to someone from a political family! Where do these potential leaders go then? Do they fight independently?

This question seems to be getting political has more repercussions than this. More sociological than political.

India has been a country of ancient cultures, traditions and continued heritage carried over by generations. We look up to a doctor’s son as a doctor, an engineer’s son is expected to be an engineer. Actor’s children are already almost ruling the Bollywood. Musical Gharanas have kept their tradition alive mostly through their families. Not to talk about industrial families who fight dirty for their heritage like anything. Getting more inside this, most of the castes in India are byproducts of occupations – barber, washerman, blacksmith and so on.

Occupational skills come naturally to children in two ways – partly through genes and partly through years of witnessing and mental practice by everyday hearsay and sight in the family. If there is nothing wrong in an actor’s children becoming actors and a doctor’s children becoming doctors, why and how should we bar the politicians launching their children and family-members in politics. After all, everyone wants for his heritage an inheritor from the family itself. It also helps the heir apparent to get the best launchpad while the interests of the family business or empire whatever it is, those interests are equally safeguarded.

But, another dimension of this is that while those other professions have no upper tab or limit on them, representing peoples’ mandate has. Yet, from the perspective of a political party it is also justified to a great extent to have its hopes on the next generation of the political family which has enjoyed a positioning and a vote bank. The party calculates its risks in terms of securing at least a defined number of votes in the face of followers of the new aspirant’s father and forefathers. For, a political party is also required to plan its ventures in a business-like manner. It has also to see the maximization of its footprint.

Fortunately or unfortunately, while for a large party like Congress family tradition or representation of Nehru family has transpired into a different kind of revival for the party with a visible impact on the country’s politics, for smaller parties, family representation has meant something else. For all the smaller parties where one family dominates all the party matters, it is more like a shop also employing people from other families and interests.

In this backdrop, while one Nehru family means the revival or debacle of the party, the following of the family tradition by other leaders, parties and even by Congress or BJP in other places has different connotations. It means the death of political aspirations of deserving aspirants. It means the death of democracy to a great extent as very often, such leaders grow to become complacent and self-centred. In this backdrop if the deserving candidates decide to fight independently, they are forced to face several roadblocks. They include first of all, expulsion from the party. Then, the indiscipline tag. And, the plight of fighting independent is known to everybody in the shape of monetary and financial gaps, local peoples’ acceptance for someone expelled on the ground of iniscipline and so on and so forth. Despite all these pains, if the candidate wins, the same party may accommodate the candidate. If the candidate gives a good fight and doesn’t win, it mostly means the victory of another party, harming the stability factor. If the aspirants decide to honour the party’s decision, we all know, its a sure beginning of the end of genuine aspirations of not only the leader but the electorates too.

Any solutions?




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