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The Family Business of Indian Politics

Thursday, 17 January 2013 - 11:32am IST | Agency: dna

India is the only democracy that has a political class dominated by family members. The Nehru-Gandhi family dominates this list, with two of its members in the BJP. Then we have Karunanidhi and his family, the Scindias and the Rajes, who are related, but have sworn allegiance to rival political parties, the Pilots, the Thackerays, the Pawars and Sules, the YSR camp in Andhra Pradesh, the Yadavs in UP, the Badals in Punjab – when you think about the list, it is endless, but the point is conveyed.

The only other democracy that I can think of that had a dynasty political system – if you even wish to call it one was when George W Bush became president of the United States eight years after his father, George HW Bush. Under his presidency, the United States went through one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression. There is speculation that the younger Bush’s brother may become the Republican candidate for the next presidential race. But there is nothing concrete to that as yet.

Coming back to India, when you think of it, the political class is called the Political Class because the class is just another business. Just like a potter’s son would become a potter centuries ago, it is necessary for a politician’s son to become a politician, unless, of course, he becomes a criminal, which is the second best career option for the son/daughter.

Imagine this scenario: you are in college with a group of friends planning out your future. Some talk of entering the media, while others talk of making it big by doing a business degree, others talk of becoming accountants. And then there are a few who say, “Mein dad ke dandhe main jaaonga.”

Where does the politician’s kid come in? After all, in India, politics is family business. There are two instances. One kid goes to the top schools abroad, comes back, takes over the mantle of the party, talks of national integration, secularism and development. Sometimes, he talks so much that he ends up becoming a joke.

The other kid studies in India, abhors the concept of incoming migration by people outside the state, talks of the local language being the number one language, and then sends his kid to an English medium school where German is the second language.

In my earlier blog piece, I spoke of the Indian hypocrisy. Some guy in the comments section labeled me as a hypocrite, which I found amusing. But the fact of the matter is all of us in one way or another are hypocrites. We vote for people, who represent a dynasty. It is the Nehru-Gandhi family today. It could be somebody else tomorrow.

We are so used to familiar faces that a fresh perspective may not even be taken into consideration. Arvind Kejriwal may have a new political party. He may be a messiah of reforms to many people at the moment. He may even go on to lead a Third Front – if they participate in the 2014 elections – to the Lok Sabha, but the fact of the matter is India will always be a Congress vs BJP. The dynasties will continue. It will be just like the Kauravas and Pandavas, but it is your job as the voter to decide who is who.