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As sons rise, dynasties continue reign on Indian politics

Former Union minister Ajit Singh’s son Jayant Chaudhary was on Sunday promoted as the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) vice-president.

india Updated: Aug 14, 2017 17:56 IST
Srinand Jha
Srinand Jha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi (right).(AFP FILE PHOTO)

The inevitable has happened: Former Union minister Ajit Singh’s son Jayant Chaudhary was on Sunday promoted as the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) vice-president.

The “son rise” phenomenon has remained an abiding feature of Indian democracy, with a majority of political parties having promoted dynasts.

If Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) patriarch Prakash Singh Badal’s son Sukhbir is the heir-apparent in Punjab, Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh has already taken over the reins from his father and founder Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Sons/daughters waiting to fill in the shoes of their fathers (or mother) include Tejaswi Yadav and his siblings (children of Rashtriya Janata Dal President Lalu Yadav), Supriya Sule (Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Yadav’s daughter) — and of course, the Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

Twenty percent of the 543 Lok Sabha members in 2004 represented political dynasties, New York University Professor Kanchan Chandra has said in his book titled “Democratic Dynasties — State party and family in contemporary Indian politics”. The numbers rose to 30 % in 2009, but dropped to 21% in 2014.

The RLD is a marginal player with limited influence in a small pocket in Uttar Pradesh. Currently, it is not represented either in Lok Sabha or Uttar Pradesh assembly.

“But the fact that even such parties feel compelled to fall back on the ‘tried and tested’ strategy of ‘family politics’ is indicative of the bankruptcy of Indian politics,” political scientist C P Bhambri said.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often hit out against the trend of dynastic politics — having referred to Rahul Gandhi as “shehzaada” (prince) during the campaign of the 2014 elections — the saffron party has not been able to keep itself free of dynasts.

Pankaj Singh (home minister Rajnath Singh’s son), Mriganka Singh and Nilima Katyar (daughters of senior BJP leaders Hukum Singh and Premlata Katyar) are among those that represent political dynasties in the BJP. Former Uttarakhand chief Minister B C Khanduri’s daughter Ritu has also entered the political fray.

In respect of promoting dynasties, the Congress has been the clear leader, but other political parties have not remained far behind. Against 47.73% dynasts fielded by the Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP put up 14.89%.

In 2009, 18.75% of all CPM members of parliament represented dynasties while 38.10% of the 21 Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MPs came from similar backgrounds, Professor Chandra has said in book.

Amongst the political class, dynasty politics has often been justified. Former Punjab deputy chief minister had once famously remarked: “Family system runs on credibility. A Mercedes Benz or a BMW is sold because these are credible products. If one comes out with a car that nobody knows about, nobody will buy that.”

First Published: Aug 14, 2017 17:54 IST