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Keeping it all in the family

Elections are the best way to determine whether dynastic succession is validated by the will of the people. There are, of course, endless examples of how youngsters from political families have made it to the top, writes Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: May 31, 2009 23:27 IST
Pankaj Vohra
Pankaj Vohra
Hindustan Times

The elevation of M.K.Stalin as the deputy chief minister of Tamil Nadu by his father M. Karunanidhi is yet another example of present politicians deciding their succession issue during their own lifetime. Earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal had appointed his son, Sukhbir Badal, as his deputy thereby giving a clear signal to the Akali Dal cadres that there should be no ambiguity about who would succeed him. Farooq Abdullah similarly allowed his son, Omar Abdullah to become the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister after the assembly polls early this year. It is another thing that suave and sophisticated Omar is the best thing to have happened to the strife-ridden Muslim-dominated border state which needs a young modern face to lead it.

While elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held after six years, the people in both Tamil Nadu and Punjab will determine during the next round of polls whether M.K. Stalin and Sukhbir Badal have political legitimacy. If the DMK and Akalis return to power, the fathers will have made the right choice. Otherwise, the two leaders will be marginalised.

Elections are the best way to determine whether dynastic succession is validated by the will of the people. There are, of course, endless examples of how youngsters from political families have made it to the top. Many of them today hold important positions in the government. But in the present system, it is extremely difficult for someone with no political background to come up in electoral politics. Shashi Tharoor is perhaps an exception. There are also some others like Meenakshi Natarajan and Ashok Tanwar who are in Parliament on the strength of their own determination and because their party gave them a chance to be on the centre-stage.

The Nehru-Gandhi family is certainly the first political family in this country in every sense of the word. Members of the family have always been accused of

promoting dynastic rule. But at all times, the people have backed them to the hilt.

The members of this family have also shown that they were not after power like many others. Sonia Gandhi renounced supreme authority and power in 2004. Rahul Gandhi is keener to build up his party than enjoy the spoils of office. The party now has over 200 MPs from the Congress in the Lok Sabha. He knows that it will be totally worthwhile and legitimate to take up the top position in government once his party gets the required numbers on its own steam.

The mandate this time has been against regional parties. Many of them have been cut down to size. This is essentially because people are fed up of the politics of blackmail and politics where narrow and bigoted interests dictate the national agenda. But the reality is that two major regional players—the Trinamool Congress and the DMK — still hold the key. If the DMK held up ministry-making because of its own succession issues, Mamata has acted against propriety in taking up her new Railway ministry in Kolkata instead of New Delhi. Her ministers too seem to be keener on acting as representatives of West Bengal instead of as functionaries of the Central government.

Even another ally, the National Conference extracted its pound of flesh by rushing to the electronic media with how the party was getting a raw deal during the Cabinet formation and that was the reason why Farooq Abdullah had decided to go to South Africa for the IPL. As per the formula, the NC was entitled to one MoS but has got a Cabinet berth for the former CM. Hopefully, the Congress will be able to extract the Rajya Sabha seat vacated by Farooq for its own nominee. As it is the party, by not fielding anyone in the valley, lost a chance to register its presence when it was needed. Prof Saifuddin Soz, who as the party chief in the state, could have avoided that. He has now paid for the lapse. His name is not there in the new ministry.

Coming back to regionalism, it is top leaders who want power to remain within their families. Lalu Prasad Yadav handed over power to his wife Rabri Devi when he got into trouble. Similarly, Mulayam Singh Yadav is more comfortable promoting both his brother and son. Sharad Pawar who has shown immense grace this time is already promoting his talented daughter Supriya Sule and so is P.A. Sangma teaching a trick or two to Agatha, the youngest minister in this government.

In Tamil Nadu, the family patriarch must be fully satisfied that he has settled all his children. In Punjab, the Cabinet has half-a-dozen members related to the Badals. But the final word on the matter is not out as yet. This will happen when the matter goes to the people’s court. Between us.

First Published: May 31, 2009 23:24 IST