Dynastic politics on way out?
It may be coincidence or by design that in the elections to the 16th Parliament of India, the electorate of the country gave a severe drubbing to the political parties propelled by a family and dynasty. Many of them have been pushed to the brink of extinction in Lok Sabha. However, Chautala family fiefdom, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) founded by late Devi Lal, has proved to be an exception. It won 2 out of 10 seats primarily, perhaps, because of the sympathy generated by the father-son duo of Om Prakash and Ajay Chautala being in jail for having been sentenced to 10 years' jail in teachers' recruitment scam.
At the national level the Congress Party led by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has been the worst sufferer. In about 130 years of its existence the Congress had never seen as bad days as under the mother-son duo of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and Mr. Rahul Gandhi who remote controlled the Manmohan government which drifted for 10 years. To save the party from utter humiliation Congress had also drafted Rahul's sister Mrs. Priyank Gandhi Vadra into the electoral battle. Still it could retain just 44 seats all over the country while the BJP won 73 seats from UP alone. Earlier the Congress had to strike alliances to be in power, now it will enter into a coalition, Mr. Narendra Modi took a dig, to be in opposition. Congress has failed to touch the 'magic figure' of 55 to be recognized as the main opposition party in Lok Sabha.
The other dynastic party which received a severe beating is the National Conference (NC) founded by late Sheikh Abdullah and whose destiny is presently guided by the father-son duo of Mr. Farooq Abdullah, a Cabinet Minister in Manmohan government and J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah. For the first time since its inception the NC has returned empty handed in the Lok Sabha elections.
Another political outfit to come out with a zero performance is the DMK which once ruled the roost in Tamil Nadu. It not only run the State government a number of times but also had an important role in most of the governments at the Centre.
Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) was founded by late Chaudhary Charan Singh who did have a stint as Prime Minister for about six months on the strength of defections. RLD legacy was inherited by his son Ajit Singh, Civil Aviation Minister in the outgoing UPA government of Dr. Manmohan Singh. He too has been an ace defector having entered into a marriage of convenience with almost every political party in the country. He contested the last Lok Sabha elections in alliance with NDA but when the latter failed to get a majority he deserted it to flirt with UPA for political pelf of power. He had now settled into a dynastic succession with his heir apparent son Jayant Chaudhary who too tasted defeat. The electorate this time gave a boot to the party and it today stands obliterated from the rolls of Parliament. The 'invincible' Ajit Singh is licking his wounds of electoral defeat.
The Bahujan Samajwadi Party run singularly by Ms Mayawati too had a very bad luck this time. It drew a blank and will be without its presence in Parliament for the first time since its inception.
Samajwadi Party (SP) of Mulayam Singh Yadav clan is another family run regional outfit. His son Mr. Akhilesh Yadav chief minister of Uttar Pradesh stands in a clear line of succession. SP was returned to power with an overwhelming majority in Vidhan Sabha elections in 2012 and had 22 Lok Sabha MPs in 2009 parliament elections. It came out greatly mauled in the recent elections with its kitty going down to 5.
In Haryana the family political group of Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) of late Haryana chief minister Bhajan Lal failed to make a mark and remained unrepresented in the new Lok Sabha.
There are many points of similarity among these dynastic conglomerates. One: when they win an election, the credit is squarely grabbed by — and given to — the 'supreme' leaders. In the event of defeat, the latter are completely quarantined of responsibility and blame transmits to the organization — and government if in power — in the states and down below.
The second common trait is that none of the top leaders has taken responsibility for the electoral humiliation. Some did stage-manage resignations when their sycophant followers shouted hoarse the "No, No" chant only to be silenced following the 'supreme' leaders announcing withdrawal of the resignations bowing to the love, affection and loyalty of their workers.
A further semblance except for HJC in Haryana is that either these parties themselves were in power or were part of the UPA government at the Centre or were chivalrously jumping in to save the government with outside support in times of need. They were the target of corruption charges themselves or were seen to be in the bandwagon of UPA. ***
Also published in October 2014 issue of SOUTH ASIA POLITICS monthly.