Indian fascination with Dynasty Politics

As the hullabaloo over the 2009 general elections draws to a close and the buoyant UPA government gets back to work, one astounding feature of these elections has been the rise of Dynasty politics. Akin to Bollywood, where star sons ruled the roost, it is now time for the Indian polity to be governed by these famous heirs. While these results have been touted as the voice of a young resurgent India, it is worth wondering how many of these nouveau young leaders are actually self-made?


The Nehru-Gandhi scion is one of the most famous dynasties not only in India but throughout the world, and this time again they didn’t disappoint with 4th Generation leader Rahul Gandhi carrying forward the baton with his dimpled smile. When he contested for the first time, five years ago from Amethi, the congress leadership soon realized that they had found their heir and since then Rahul has become synonymous with the revival of the Congress. Rahul Baba, as lovingly called by his party co-workers, is being given all the credit for the party’s performance in U.P. and has been unofficially anointed as the future P.M. of India by party workers and love-stricken teenage girls alike.


Another Gandhi who has risen to prominence this year is none other than the outspoken and firebrand politician Varun Gandhi. Though his infamous speech might have earned him more than his fifteen minutes of fame, his landslide victory in Pilbhit can also be attributed to his illustrious family heritage.


While the Gandhi’s may be the most apt example of a political dynasty on a national level, such families also dominate the regional landscape. Be it the Patnaik’s in Orissa, or the Scindia’s in Madhya Pradesh, in this nation, democracy can sometimes resemble a monarchy. Other examples include the Abdullah’s in Jammu and Kashmir and the unforgettable Thackeray’s in Maharashtra. Karunanidhi and his many heirs from his three marriages have also been a talking point in the last few days due to their wrangling and bargaining for Cabinet berths.


The Indian subcontinent has been witness to many a political dynasty, with the Koirala’s in Nepal and the Bhutto’s in Pakistan being prominent names. However, if one thinks it is a phenomenon restricted only to the subcontinent, one could not be more mistaken. The Kennedy’s are by far the most famous American dynasty synonymous with charisma and royalty, with the Bush family a close second. North Korea became the world’s first communist dynasty when after the death of President Kim Il-Sung, his son Kim Jong-Il became his successor in 1994.


However, in today’s information era, the existence of such dynasties is now threatened by the new age discerning voter, who takes into account every minute detail about the politician before making his choice. Gone are the days of caste-based or religion-based vote bank politics. The buzzword of the season is development, and while a famous surname may give one an extra mileage, it is performance that can sustain the legacy.


If such dynasties wish to continue their heritage, the onus in now on them to deliver the results, and only the family name cannot secure a parliamentary seat for them. In this cutthroat competitive world, nothing comes easy anymore, not even a parliamentarian’s job!

Supriya Narang

[Image source:]