No matter who wins or loses, the poll outcome in Maharashtra and Haryana on Thursday will decide the future of four regional political dynasties: those of the former Congressman Bhajan Lal, Indian National Lok Dal chief Om Prakash Chautala and Shiv Sena’s Bal Thackeray.
Thackeray outranks everyone at 83. Lal is 79, Chautala 73 and at 69, Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar is relatively younger, but nearly there.
Logically, Pawar should now promote his daughter and heir Supriya Sule’s leadership rather than securing his own. He may, however, like to wait to see how the NCP performs.
The outlook isn’t that clear in the extended Sena family where Thackeray is virtually immobilized and his son and nephew — Uddhav and Raj — are slugging it out in the streets.
Raj would have a stronger claim to his uncle’s political silver if his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena garners enough votes in Mumbai and Thane to foist another defeat on the mother party after its stunning Lok Sabha debacle.
In Harayana, Chautala was always an uncertain keeper of his father Devi Lal’s legacy. His two sons, Ajay and Abhay, seem doubly vulnerable in the face of Chief Minister Bhupendra Singh Hooda’s clout among the Jat voters whose support is crucial for the Indian National Lok Dal’s survival.
The elbowroom available to Bhajan Lal and his son younger son Kuldeep Bishnoi is even less. They lost the initiative the day they failed to team-tag their Haryana Janhit Congress with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party.
Pramod Kumar, a Chandigarh-based political analyst, said, “The decline of these dynasties and that of the late Bansi Lal has given the Congress the chance to appropriate the vacant space.”