Whither Indian Political Dynasties
Indian democracy has a dubious achievement to its credit. It is responsible for the creation of an estimated 500 political dynasties in the country. Ever since 1947 which saw India becoming independent but today we are heavily dependent on these families for our political management. The hold they have on the government and opposition is very strong. It is now not easy for a non political family person to make a dent in politics unless he happens to be someone of the class of Narendra Modi. And how many Modis can the system throw up?
In almost all states of Iindia there are multiple political dynasties ruling the roost. In many cases they have now gone into third generation. The premier first family of the country is now in its sixth generation and fortunately is an exception. Perhaps barring the Communist parties, these dynasties are to be found in all other political parties. The number depends on the age and ability to come to power of the party.
We thus have the third generation young scion as the Chief Minister in J&K, the second generation as CM in Orissa and the father-son combine in Punjab. A few years ago a CM of Bihar when he had to resign due to corruption charges coolly installed his wife as the next CM. A few days back, he held a grand meeting in Patna to induct his young sons into politics. A powerful Minister in the Central cabinet has his daughter and nephew taking care of his interest in his native State, large parts of which are suffering from famine. In the State of Haryana, political families keep mushrooming at regular intervals and a father and son combine has gone to jail also as a family on corruption charges. Down South we are all aware of a large political family which was recently voted out of power by the party led by a spinster. This family has a role for all its sons ,daughters and nephews. Most of them are allegedly involved in one or other corruption case. In UP the father made way for his inexperienced son to become the CM with results all of us see everyday. In Mumbai there is a political family which anointed its very young third generation into politics with the blessings of the grandfather who passed away a few months ago. In the central cabinet a Minister agreed to resign on the condition that his son, a Lok Sabha MP from Mumbai, is inducted into the cabinet,which was done.
One of the biggest drawbacks of this culture is that the family politician does not have to prove his worth as his seat is assured. So most of them start minting money and pedaling influence. They are not bothered about their reputation because the family will take care of that. Also they bank on the fact that public memory is short and it has no choice.
The Congress has the largest number of political families, which is to be expected because it has been in power for nearly 56 of the 66 years India has been free. It is estimated that in the present Parliament nearly 33 % of the members are from political families. The percentage could be more in the state assemblies. In future these numbers are bound to go up as it is going to become more and more difficult for others to either get tickets and if they do to arrange for the vast monetary funds required to finance the elections. Increasingly outsiders are going to be shut out of India's political process. The country will be dominated by a cobweb and network of mutually inclusive political families that keep becoming political dynasties.
This is a going to harm Indian democracy. First of all it will no longer be a democracy in its true meaning. Grass root workers cannot aspire to higher positions in the various political parties. Inbreeding of political leaders from only select families will bar meritorious and new thoughts from coming into the nation's political arena. The political battles will be more between individuals and families rather than ideologies. The number of genuine grass root political workers will go down considerably and this will encourage the entry of sycophants who'll work to enrich themselves. The politicians in power will be in a cocoon and will feel so protected that they will resort to making money without fear of exposure. It suits them that elections are costly to fight as it ensures outsiders from entering into the system. Before independence India was ruled by hundreds of big and small kings, today we are electing democratic"kings" in hundreds to rule us.
Why has such state of affairs developed? It is indeed comical to listen to many of the second and third generation politicians say in talk shows that the only favour they have received is that they could get ticket to fight the elections easily because of the family connection. But after that it is their hard work which gets them elected again and again. Nothing could be far from the truth. Imagine that of the 570 odd Lok Sabha seats nearly 33% ie around 200 seats have gone to these family connections. It is also estimated that these family members on an average enter politics 10 years before non family members do. Thus they get another undue advantage over others. It is also well known how the assets and other forms of wealth of most of the politicians multiplies after they get elected and thus they are able to finance their election campaign in a huge way, which others can't do.
Why do the people of India vote the scions of these families repeatedly and also across generations. It is because most of tye time people are voting for parties and have no choice in the selection of candidates. Also they seem to choose a known devil over an unknown devil. Also the smart political patriarchs have formed alliances with significant section of voters on basis of caste and other considerations. All this and other local and specific considerations go to ensure that political dynasties are perpetuated.
This phenomenon is not unique to India. In fact many Asian countries are afflicted with it. Nearly three hundred years ago Britain was in the vice of such political families. In USA also there are a few political families like the Kennedy, Bush and now Clintons. But they are very few in numbers unlike India. It is expected that with the maturing of the democratic process, the exertion of the grass root workers and the creation of awareness by NGO's gradually the influence of political families will go down in India also. Also there should be a time limit for holding the MP/MLA and CM/PM post without any extension whatsoever.
In the end it is the voters who have to decide whether they want to be ruled by meritorious politicians or scions of political dynasties thrust upon them.
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