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Are Dynasties Doomed?

What is important to note is that the India of 2017 has moved way beyond dynasty

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Congress heir Rahul Gandhi recently made some interesting observations in the US about dynasty politics.

To a question, he replied: “Most parties in India have that problem. Mr Akhilesh Yadav is a dynast. Mr Stalin (son of M. Karunanidhi in DMK) is a dynast... even Abhishek Bachchan is a dynast. That’s how India runs. So don’t get after me because that’s how India is run. By the way, last I recall, Mr Ambanis are running the business. That’s also going on in Infosys. So that’s what happens in India,” as he listed, BJP politicians among those perpetuating dynasty politics.
Gandhi is no longer a greenhorn in politics.

When he started off, he came across as someone who was well-meaning, even if inexperienced. He often said, to the people and the Press, that “he owed his position in the Congress, to his family”.

Some of the early experiments that he introduced in the Congress were on the democratisation of the organisation. He roped in a body floated by former Election Commissioners to conduct organisational polls in the Youth Congress and the NSUI — the youth wing and the students’ wing of the Congress.

His move was widely hailed, even by the fiercely independent former Election Commissioners.

However, as it turned out, and was widely reported, even the organisational elections were hijacked by dynasts — so deep-rooted is the malaise in the Congress.

In his US observation, Gandhi specifically referred to “Dhumal’s son”, Anurag Thakur. True, there are a number of BJP politicians who owe their positions to their lineage. Besides Thakur, one can easily count the families of the late Pramod Mahajan, late Sahib Singh Verma and late Gopinath Munde among others who have taken forward the family legacy.

What is noteworthy, however, is that the Narendra Modi government has not overtly encouraged the trend. If anything, these family enterprises and their beneficiaries have been kept away from ministerial positions and other favours. Poonam Mahajan is one of the few dynasts who seems to have found favour — as she succeeded Anurag Thakur, another dynast, as the chief of the BJP youth wing, this year.

What is important to note is that the India of 2017 has moved way beyond dynasty. While some may take the claim of the BJP as the party representing meritocracy with a pinch of salt, the fact remains that children of a lesser God can still aspire for top positions in the party.

This column has argued previously also, that while the Congress sought to engage the BJP on its terms, and floated bodies such as the All India Professional Congress, it filled the organisation’s leadership with dynasts. To expect such an experiment would succeed in today’s India is wishful thinking.

In his US observations, Gandhi referred to Infosys too being affected by the same malaise.

It’s true that one-time induction of N. R. Narayana Murthy’s son Rohan, had given rise to this apprehension, but with the turn of events, it became clear that meritocracy alone would be the rule of the game in boardroom battles.

It’s not that there have not been exceptions. Sachin Pilot, another Congress dynast, is giving sleepless nights to Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje; and his colleague and yet another dynast Jyotiraditya Scindia is set to give a tough fight to Shivraj Singh Chouhan in MP.

The questions is — can Gandhi, in the spirit of democratisation that he once championed, relinquish power to pave the way for the Pilots and Scindias?

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