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The fault lines in political succession blueprints

Regional parties are like tightly held family companies where equity is bequeathed to the favourite child but the law of primogeniture often doesn’t work in dynastic politics. Illustrative of that is the rise of Stalin, Tejaswi and Chandrababu.

editorials Updated: Oct 10, 2018 12:10 IST
Hindustan Times
RJD Chief Lalu Prasad with former Bihar CM and his wife Rabri Devi, and his sons Tejaswi and Tej Pratap Yadav, Patna, July 10, 2017(Santosh Kumar/Hindustan Times)

When patriarchs die, grow old or, because they are no longer physically present at the heart of the action, exercise remote control in the manner of the incarcerated Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief, Lalu Yadav, political dynasties develop fissures. Or fall apart.

Symptomatic of such a fissure is the reported rift between Lalu’s sons, Tejaswi and Tej Pratap Yadav. The former was deputy chief minister in the Nitish Kumar government before the collapse of the grand alliance. The latter was health minister. The rumblings in the larger Lalu clan are reminiscent of the discord in Jat stalwart Devi Lal’s family. His other sons, Ranjit Singh and Pratap Singh, were thorns in the side of his heir and elder son, OP Chautala. But they couldn’t stall his rise as chief minister of Haryana. The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) Chautala inherited from his father remains in his and his sons’ control.

As in the case of Chautala, who developed a support base of his own, Tejaswi has evolved as a leader in his own right in his father’s absence. Among the Lalu kinfolk, Tej Pratap can at best be what Ranjit Singh was in the Devi Lal family — a peripheral player. The other parallel is in the Samajwadi Party (SP) in which Akhilesh Yadav beat back his uncle, Shivpal Yadav’s challenge. His stint as Uttar Pradesh chief minister gave him a platform to stand taller than the politically wilier Shivpal, whose claims to hierarchy rested on his loyalty to his brother (and Akhilesh’s father), Mulayam Singh Yadav. Regardless of what their detractors say, Tejasvi and Akhilesh face no challenge in the line of succession.

Regional parties are like tightly held family companies where equity is bequeathed to the favourite child. That has happened in the case of MK Stalin, whose succession was smooth primarily because his elder brother and rival, MK Azhagiri was ousted from the DMK when their father and long time DMK chief, M Karunanidhi, was alive. But the jury is still out on whether Stalin’s primacy is a settled issue, given his sidelined elder brother’s popularity in Tamil Nadu’s southern districts. Historically, successors who are able to augment what they have grabbed or inherited get to control regional outfits. NT Rama Rao’s son-in-law, Chandrababu Naidu, could grab the baton in Andhra but GM Shah could not in Jammu and Kashmir — where Farooq Abdullah emerged as Sheikh Abdullah’s political heir despite his sister’s ambitious husband.The law of primogeniture often doesn’t work in dynastic politics. Illustrative of that is the rise of Stalin, Tejaswi and Chandrababu. They haven’t just inherited; they’ve added value to the positions they hold.

First Published: Oct 10, 2018 12:09 IST