The unexpected emergence of Rahul Gandhi, president of the Congress party which has ruled at the Centre and most states of the Indian Union for over half a century since independence, as a prime ministerial candidate in 2019, has given a new impetus to dynastic politics. After the December legislative assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in which the Congress bested BJP, Rahul has bounced back from the periphery to the centre of Indian politics.
Rising public acceptance of Rahul, a fifth generation scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty which has contributed three prime ministers and a two-term proxy (Dr. Manmohan Singh, 2004-14) to the PMO (prime minister’s office), has undoubtedly boosted the morale of a host of sons and daughters of state-level politicians who have discovered there’s no business like political business. Across the country, almost all political satraps are grooming one or more of their progeny for high level political offices.
In Karnataka, two sons of former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda — one of them already chief minister — are dominating the political space. In neighbouring Tamil Nadu, M.K. Stalin, son of M. Karunanidhi, three-time chief minister of Tamil Nadu, has succeeded the latter as the leader of the opposition DMK. In Telangana, Bihar, Himachal, Rajasthan and sundry other states, ambitious progeny of former and incumbent chief ministers are set to vault into the office of chief minister.
The sprouting of family dynasties in Indian politics is hardly surprising. In which other vocation can one hope to keep doubling family assets every quinquennium as recorded by the Delhi-based Association for Democratic Reforms, which monitors the fast-multiplying wealth of professedly socialist India’s upwardly mobile politicians?
Curiously, the intelligentsia seems to have accepted dynastic succession in democratic India as perfectly natural, on the reasoning that dynasty scions have to seek electoral endorsement. The inconvenient detail that the pitch is doctored in their favour is overlooked. After all, young Amuraths succeed aged patriarchs in business, industry and Bollywood with monotonous regularity. The portents are that soon there will be family feuds in every sector of the Indian economy. A discerning minority of political pundits might describe this phenomenon as reversion into feudalism. But they are voices in the wilderness.