There is nothing logical about dynastic politics, with its belief that there is a special quality that is passed down the ‘blood line’. But, at the same time, there is no logical reason to suppose that the son or daughter of a politician should not be allowed to follow his or her parent’s profession. Unfortunately, when the issue of political succession is perceived as a matter of divine right, the medievalism that lurks behind such a phenomenon becomes all too evident. This was on display in Madurai on Wednesday, when lumpen supporters of MK Azhagiri, one of the sons of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, went on the rampage, setting ablaze the offices of the Tamil daily Dinakaran and its affiliated television network, Sun TV. The mob was reacting to a survey published in Dinakaran that projected MK Stalin, Mr Azhagiri’s younger brother, as the favourite to succeed his father as DMK chief. The violence unleashed left three people dead.
It was not so much dynastic politics but the rigor mortis displayed by the law and order authorities when it comes to dealing with VIPs that was evident in Madurai. The police reportedly took no action against the mob, waiting as they were for ‘clearance’ to act against the crazed miscreants. When a newspaper office is attacked and a trail of violence follows, one would expect the police to throw ‘protocol caution’ to the wind. As in far too many cases before in the country, that did not happen. Mr Karunanidhi may have condemned the incident by describing it as “an attack on democracy and press freedom”, promising legal action against those responsible for the mayhem, but can he absolve himself of blame for Mr Azhagiri taking it for granted that he has extra-judicial powers?
Doling out political positions along familial lines have become so common in India that very few are perturbed by it. Mr Azhagiri’s supporters were not demanding any logical reason as to why their ‘candidate’ did not trounce Mr Stalin in the survey published in Dinakaran. They just didn’t like what the poll indicated. This atavistic nature of political dynasties can lead — or rather mislead — people to very shaky ground. For, irrespective of Mr Karunanidhi’s assurance that “there is no place for dynastic succession in the DMK”, that is not what people, Mr Azhagiri’s mob included, have always been led to believe.