Monday, January 2, 2012

DYNASTIC LEADERS IN THE DOCK IN 2012/ The Sunday Standard/January 01, 2012


Dynastic Leaders in the Dock in 2012: People's Court will decide destiny

If year 2011 was the Year of Nemesis, 2012 will see judgment day for the political dynasties that rule more than half of India. Ever since the rise of regional leaders and the eclipse of nationally acceptable leaders, the Children of a Better God have found a place in what is now turning out to be Dynastic Democracy. Though most of those who control and direct both regional and national politics were born in India’s ruling families, they have also extracted political legitimacy by getting the popular mandate in their own states. As their parents take a backseat, or have unfortunately left the world, GenNext is now trying to assert their own ideologies and identities. From Rahul Gandhi to K Kanimozhi, they will have to now prove their own talents instead of pedigree to become leaders in their own right. During 2012, they will have to prove their utility, acceptability and political desirability not only among their own party cadres, but also among their voters. 2012 is likely to be their Year of Reckoning. The short list.

Rahul Gandhi: The 41-year-old third-generation scion of the Gandhi dynasty has hit the road to justify his privileged ascendency from a mere student to India’s second most powerful political personality after his mother. With just seven years in politics, he has already been declared the next prime minister. Rahul is perhaps aware of the monumental popular expectations from his hidden political skills. He can become prime minister only if he is able to deliver his state to his party. Uttar Pradesh goes to the polls in the first quarter of 2012. March 4, 2012, will decide not only Rahul’s future but also the relevance or irrelevance of dynastic politics. The Congress unfailingly lauds Rahul for the party’s spectacular performance in Uttar Pradesh during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections in which it won 22 seats. Since then, it lost almost all the Assembly by-elections. The Rahul experiment failed in Bihar in 2010; the Congress got only double digits in spite of his nerve-wracking poll campaign. He is not taking any chances in Uttar Pradesh, where he plans to address over 100 election rallies covering almost all the 400 Assembly segments. He has been personally involved in selecting candidates, supervising election material and choosing the campaigners. If his message and medium fails in the state, it will be a huge setback for his future plans. However, if he and his team deliver even 75 seats, Rahul will be unstoppable.

Akhilesh Yadav: The 38-year-old son of former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and president of the Samajawadi Party is posing a bigger challenge to the Gandhi scion than expected. He doesn’t sleep in Dalit homes or indulge in out-of-the-box dramatics. While both Akhilesh and Rahul are targeting Chief Minister Mayawati, the former has the advantage as he is seen as the state’s future chief minister and not as India’s prime minister. Since it is a chief minister that voters elect in the Assembly elections, Akhilesh is better off. Though he has denied any chief ministerial aspirations, he has been on the road for the past six months covering almost every constituency. Unlike his father, Akhilesh is projecting himself as a moderniser and not just a leader out to seek a mandate in the name of caste and religion. He has stayed away from Mulayam’s ideology of forging a political matrimony between Muslims and Yadavs (MY). The 2012 electoral battle will also endorse Akhilesh’s dynastic succession, if he is able to improve SP’s tally of less than 90 seats in the current house.

Sukhbir Badal: With his 84-year-old father and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal looking for an exit, it is now time for Punjab’s 49-year-old Deputy Chief Minister to prove his mettle by returning the state to the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal. For the past six months, he and his wife, Lok Sabha MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal, have been crisscrossing the state seeking a mandate for dynastic succession. Sukhbir’s ascendency led to a minor split in the party. His father, however, has given him full freedom to not only manage the state government but also the party, which rules the state along with the BJP. In the battle between a rich farmer and a glamorous maharaja, Captain Amarinder Singh, Sukhbir’s challenge is not only beating the incumbency factor, but also to carry the entire party along.

K Kanimozhi: For the whole year, M Karunanidhi’s daughter is the toughest task of them all. She has to fight daily not only legal cases, but also family members and the party to retain her political identity. After spending over six months in Tihar Jail as one of the accused in the 2G scam, 2012 is going to be her Year of Survival. Only if she is able to survive her legal nemesis will Kani be able to thrive in the party. With brothers M K Stalin and M Alagiri in deep freeze, thanks to either illness or corruption cases, she has both age and the image of a victim on her side. If Kani is able to come out of her troubles, it is she, and not her feuding siblings, who will be the DMK’s future.

Omar Abdullah: Imposed as the J&K chief minister through a secret midnight family coup in 2008, 42-year-old Omar will face the most serious challenge to his authority when he returns from his Christmas holidays to the frozen Kashmir Valley. 2011 has been a stormy year, both on personal and political fronts. With a section of the Congress and the National Conference baying for his blood, for his failure to ensure proper governance during the past three years, 2012 is going to be his Year of Trial. If Omar fails to strike a balance between good governance and good politics, a huge question mark will be raised against his dynastic succession.

Jagan Mohan Reddy: He failed to pull down the Congress Government in Andhra Pradesh in 2011, but his test ahead is not only to keep his dwindling flock together, but also to project himself as the genuine successor to his father YSR’s legacy, and an effective alternative to both the TDP and the Congress in the state. He won the parliamentary by-election in 2011, but in 2012, he will have to display all his manipulative skills to frustrate the state’s attempt to frame him in myriad corruption cases. Jagan has the money and the muscle power. In 2012, he has to put both to profitable use, and move away from being just a fringe player to the leader of a party who can dictate state politics in the long run.

The Thackeray Cousins:
They have so far remained as only pinpricks in Maharashtra politics. Both Uddhav and Raj Thackeray have been ploughing and plotting for a bigger role, but have failed miserably so far. Both have been flirting and fuming with and against the RSS. In 2011, they couldn’t disturb or dislocate even a cricket match, leave alone the scam-ridden, ineffective Congress state government. Even after three years, the cousins haven’t been able to strike a chord with the cadres or people in the state. Since Maharashtra gets into election mode next year, both will have to establish their utility and relevance to their cadres. 2012 will be their Year of Introspection. If they fail to get the right idea or acceptable ideology in place, both will be doomed as dynastic successors.

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