Monday, September 28, 2009

Power & Politics/ Mail Today, September 28, 2009

THE PROLIFERATION of political dynasties no more surprises us. But as fast as they breed, there is also trouble brewing in the backyards of the big parties. The intra party strife is mostly triggered by the conflicting interests of the big political families. An analysis of the distribution of tickets for the Maharashtra and Haryana assembly elections shows that nearly 25 percent of the seats have been given to sons, daughters and relatives of leaders from big political families in both states. It is now clear that dynasties, at least in politics, can be double edged weapons: they can be a marquee draw; they can also be a drawback.

Never have we seen such an explosion of dynastic ambitions and never have we seen familial ambitions stoking so much inner party strife. Parties are no more fighting each other. It is families within parties that are fighting one another and every leader with a son or daughter back home wants the progeny to carry the baton just to ensure that power stays within the family. Never mind if it triggers a faction war within the party.

The rot starts at the top. Having delivered nine of the ten Lok Sabha seats to the Congress, including his son Deepinder’s, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda is busy securing tickets for near relatives. After a long innings, former state Congress president SS Surjewala has bowed but only on condition that his son takes over the Kaithal seat. Kiran Chowdhury, the state tourism minister and Bansi Lal’s daughter in law, has already sent her daughter to the Lok Sabha, so her efforts are solely aimed at stalling future threats to her little girl.

There is a moral vacuum in the NCP which is controlled by the three Pawars, Sharad, daughter Supriya and nephew Ajit. A few months ago, it expelled Padam Singh Patil, a former state minister and incumbent MP after he was charged with murder. Yet the party found nothing wrong in giving a ticket to his son. The Thackerays are a house divided after Raj, Bal Thackeray’s nephew and once seen as the heir apparent, was sidelined by Uddhav.

Inspired perhaps by his mother’s unexpected elevation to the highest office in the land, President Pratibha Patil’s son Rajendra Shekhawat, a first timer, staked claim and got the ticket for the Amaravati assembly constituency in Maharashtra, edging out a popular state minister who has now not only turned a rebel candidate but even dragged the Rashtrapati Sharad Pawar Bhavan into Congress politics by accusing the president of misuse of office.

The candidate selection process in the BJP has seen frayed tempers stopping just short of fisticuffs after the powerful former deputy chief minister Gopinath Munde overruled the claims of several party veterans and handed out tickets to his daughter Pankaja, his brother’s son in law Madhusoodan Kendre and his late brother in law Pramod Mahajan’s daughter Poonam Mahajan Rao. Now that one of his sons has a toe hold in Bollywood, Union Industries minister and former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh inducted another into politics. For union power minister, Sushil Shinde, one was not enough. So he got both his daughter and son in law tickets.

Having sent one son into the Lok Sabha last May, it was time for Narayan Rane to get the next to enter the assembly. Ditto for Chaggan Bhujbal who thinks only his son can keep the flag flying. In the late seventies, when Indira Gandhi pushed Sanjay into politics, there were howls of protests about dynastic rule.
Sanjay’s aggressive, abrasive and autocratic ways convinced even many Congressmen that dynastic succession may not be a good thing after all.
Times have changed and these days nobody bats an eyelid when the latest offspring is unveiled on the political stage.

Some, like Rahul, are welcomed enthusiastically by partymen and he in turn has more than lived up to their expectations venturing into territories that similar English speaking public school educated “ elitists” would loathe. It is to be hoped that the new generation that is seeking power despite already enjoying all its trappings proves to be similarly worthy. Once upon a time, parties were differentiated by their ideologies. These have now blurred and parties are now known by the legacy not of their national leaders but of a few state level satraps.

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