It is no secret. Politics in Maharashtra is largely a family business. Politicians’ kin — husband, wife, father, sons, daughters, uncles, nieces, nephews — have made careers out of the state’s political system. And the upcoming assembly polls will again bring to the fore the dynastic politics where generations have rocked in the lap of power for decades.
Once believed to be restricted to the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the phenomenon has now taken firm roots even in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Its ally, the Shiv Sena, is no different with the top leadership staying within the family of the founder.
The Congress and the NCP have many political families, mainly because their early generations had been part of the government before and after independence.
In some districts, the two parties have third generations carrying forward their elders’ power games. The influence of these families is what the allies are banking on to retain the assembly seats. But there is still an element of doubt as the trend did not work in some Lok Sabha segments, which is mainly because of the Modi wave.
However, parties claim the assembly polls are different from the general elections because of smaller constituencies. Also, the candidates have stronger connect with smaller groups.
Socio-political experts link this with factors such as caste majority, and opportunities of economic growth offered by the respective political family.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s family, with the first and second generation entrenched in politics has emerged as the most influential so far. It controls a ruling party that has been in power for past the 15 years.
Pawar has groomed daughter Supriya Sule and nephew Ajit Pawar to be his successor, although it is yet to be seen who he finally chooses. He has also mentored sons and daughters of leaders he has worked with in his 47-year-old political career.
A strong influence in the Nanded region helped Ashok Chavan, son of former CM Shankarrao Chavan, win the LS elections — one of the two seats his party won. Ashok’s wife Amita may now fight the elections from his assembly segment.
Shankarrao was the one who mentored Vilasrao Deshmukh, who went on to become the longest serving CM after Vasantrao Naik. Deshmukh’s elder son Amit is now a minister of state and will seek second term from Latur.
Naik’s nephew Sudhakar went on to became CM, as his two sons stayed away from the political arena. His other nephew Manohar is a long-time minister from NCP’s quota, and now his sons are expected to contest the polls.
The family of former CM Vasantdada Patil has been at the forefront in Sangli district. However, his grandson Pratik’s defeat put the on breaks on the legacy. Pratik’s father was an MP and his grandmother a legislator and minister in the state.
Sushilkumar Shinde, who suffered a humiliating defeat in Solapur, will have daughter Praniti in the assembly fray for the second time.
Incumbent CM Prithviraj Chavan, too, inherits politics from father Anandrao, who was a minister in the Nehru cabinet, and mother Premila, who replaced her husband in the Lok Sabha.
Prithviraj took his mother’s place in the Parliament from Karad after her death, till he lost in 1999. He plans to seek his first assembly term from his hometown this year.
The Rane clan is also known for its dynastic politics. While Narayan Rane failed in getting his son Nilesh re-elected to the LS this year, he wants Congress to field his younger son Nitesh in a segment next to his own assembly constituency in Sindhudurg district.
Sons and daughters of many top leaders across the state are carrying on political legacies because of the influence they wield in an area.
The Bhosales, heirs of Shivaji, have been in power in Satara for decades. In neighbouring Solapur, the Mohite-Patils have presence in all major parties.
NCP’s other big shot Chhagan Bhujbal and his son Pankaj are MLAs and his nephew Sameer was an MP till May 2014.
Navi Mumbai’s Ganesh Naik and younger son Sandeep are NCP MLAs. His elder son Sanjeev was an MP till he lost his seat this year.
Interestingly, the BJP, which had slammed the Congress and NCP over its dynastic politics, has been blatantly adopting the strategy. It fielded late Pramod Mahajan’s daughter Poonam against Congress’s Priya Dutt in LS polls.
Now, late BJP minister Gopinath Munde’s second daughter is expected to contest the Lok Sabha bypoll necessitated by the leader’s death. His elder daughter will be BJP’s Assembly candidate in Parli.
BJP’s ally the Sena also believes in keeping things within the family. While late Bal Thackeray named son Uddhav his successor, the current Sena chief is training his son Aditya to take his place.
Raj Thackeray, who was trained by the former Sena chief, broke away to form his outfit without dissociating it from the senior Thackeray’s ideology.
State BJP president Devendra Fadnavis, whose father was a legislator, said “We are against those who claim positions by virtue of birth. But we are all for children [of politicians] who are good politicians and contribute to society.”
A Congress leader, who inherited his father’s seat, said there was nothing wrong in the trend. “My party has always said if a doctor’s son can become a doctor, why can’t a politician’s son become a politician?” he said.
Socio-economic commentator Shrikant Barhate said our closed social structure, strongly dominated by caste setups were perfect breeding ground for dynastic politics. “This won’t happen in a liberal society,” he said.