Dear PM, Even BJP is Fond Of Naamdars, Just Like All Other Parties

Even the nascent parties in India are openly pushing the idea of dynastic politics. 

Published
Opinion
3 min read
When it comes to offering tickets, the BJP has been very generous to the relatives of MPs, MLAs and ministers in Madhya Pradesh.
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Which party or coalition has more dynasts in its ranks? The Opposition alliance-in-the-making, which the prime minister terms the club of rich dynasts? Or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) itself? Or perhaps its allies like the Shiv Sena or Akali Dal?

According to a report by The Indian Express, in the outgoing Assemblies of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the BJP had more dynasts than the Congress in the first two but was marginally behind its rival in Chhattisgarh. Naamdars galore in BJP ranks also!

When it comes to offering tickets, the BJP has been very generous to the relatives of MPs, MLAs and ministers in Madhya Pradesh.

An IANS analysis shows that the BJP gave “tickets to over 40 such candidates who are either sons, daughters, wives or relatives of former MPs, MLAs or senior party functionaries.” 

This works out to almost one-fifth of all candidates in one state alone! Is the number insignificant, warranting an attack on others?

Union Cabinet Has Dynasts Too

Is the prime minister’s own Cabinet free of naamdars? The analysis of Kanchan Chandra of New York University shows that “24 percent of India’s current cabinet is dynastic in nature.”

Since the analysis was done right after the swearing-in of the PM’s first Cabinet, the proportion would have changed somewhat, following minor reshuffling carried out quite a few times since then.

But the fact that his first Cabinet had one dynast out of every four members clearly suggests that the PM cannot claim immunity from fostering a culture of dynasticism.

64% Parties in Parliament Are Family-based

Kanchan Chandra’s study shows that “dynasticism is also alive and well in major Indian political parties. Of the 36 political parties that now have at least one seat in Parliament, the leaders of at least 13 (36 percent) were preceded by family members in politics.

The leaders of another 10 parties have family members who followed them into politics (and often the leadership of the party), bringing the total of family-based political parties to a whopping total of 23, or 64 percent of all political parties in Parliament.” And this includes many of BJP’s allies.

The author further adds that “dynasticism in India even in 2014 exists at significantly higher levels than in several other established democracies, putting it in the company of countries such as Japan, Iceland and Ireland, in which between a third and a fourth of elected legislators in 2009 were dynastic.

This distinguishes it from countries such as the UK, Belgium, Israel, the US, Norway, and Canada, in which the proportion of dynastic legislators ranged between 1 percent and 11 percent, respectively.”

‘Opponents’ of Dynasty Politics Aren’t Averse to the Idea

The hold of dynasts is not confined to national politics alone. They are as entrenched in state Assemblies as well. We have many examples of otherwise vocal opponents of dynasty politics keenly pushing the case for their relatives, picking up batons in their areas of influence.

Even the nascent parties are openly pushing the idea, and K Chandrasekhar Rao’s TRS is a case in point. Then there are parties like the AIADMK, which do not seem to be promoting family-based politics in theory, but do precisely that in practice.

While some parties have dynasts placed right at the top, there are many others where the kin of powerful leaders occupy the all-important middle rung, giving themselves the power to control the organisation. Can we differentiate between the two? Aren’t the two different sides of the same coin?

Why is Dynasticism So Entrenched in Our Political System?

Kanchan Chandra argues that “except for the unusually well qualified, most 20- or 30-year olds from political families are likely to obtain greater returns, in status, power, and earning capacity, from entry-level positions in elected politics than say entry-level positions in business, banking, or the bureaucracy or other such professions.”

The return is much higher, not just at the entry level but at all comparable levels. And the returns are higher because politicians at all levels in elected positions have unlimited access to dominant state power, with a licence to use it however they want to.

Mr Prime Minister, if you are serious about getting rid of dynasticism, please change the conditions – dominant state power and its discretionary use – that give sustenance to family-based political enterprises. That can happen only when all elected offices are subjected to greater scrutiny and institutions are allowed to function independently.

What we have seen instead in the last four years is growing power of state and systematic attempts to undermine institutions.

While elected offices have given themselves absolute control over the state power, the health of independent institutions like the CBI, RBI and EC has deteriorated. If this continues, return on investment in politics will be even higher.

And dynasticism will flourish, not just in the PM’s party as it has been all these years, but also in most other parties.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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