Remember the cartoon dating back to another decade, another election? The one that showed a large gathering of political party nominees for upcoming elections being addressed by a gushing leader: “Sons, sons-in-law, sisters, nephews, brothers-in-law, my kith and kin…! Our great democratic republic is about to embark on an election……”
A couple of generations later, we have another election amid a lot of changes but nothing seems to have changed for the huge happy family in that cartoon. If anything, the number of VIP sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts, cousins and second cousins in the poll field has shot up. Indeed in no other election since Independence have tickets been showered on children and grandchildren of political heavyweights in such large numbers and with such impunity as in this election, throwing pretensions to the wind and in many cases with no consideration for merit, ability or intellect. In the first few elections, allocation of tickets for privileged sons and daughters was confined to the Congress. Now with increasing decline in the fortunes of the party and the emergence of many other players, the ticket game cuts across the spectrum.
Even as Narendra Modi has been shouting himself hoarse, carping about one “Shehzada” of Delhi, the battle has been joined by countless other shehzadas and shehzadis. So in the race you see the kith and kin of larger-than-life personages all the way from Mahatma Gandhi to AB Vajpayee, P Chidambaram, Mulayam Singh, Digvijaya Singh, Rajnath Singh and so on…. The way the things are, the day may not be far when we end up with a Babalog Sabha rather than a Lok Sabha.
Asked about it time and again, some of the babalog have hit back: “Sure, we’ve had the initial advantage of getting the election ticket because of the family tag, but then that’s about it. Having got the ticket, there is no escaping the hell and fire of electioneering like any other candidate, so why all the fuss?”
The argument doesn’t account for the hidden hand of money and muscle power that makes all the difference. The phenomenal growth of political families’ money and muscle power is the secret behind the meteoric rise of dynastic stars and starlets election after election. There is little that the voters can do about this money and muscle. But what they can do on polling day is to deploy their own voting power to keep out all the dummies and dullards because they happen to be someone’s son or daughter or daughter-in-law.
(Yash Paul Narula is a senior journalist. The views expressed by the author are personal)