The dynastic problem
Dynastic politics and nepotism in India is for real. But we shouldn’t dismiss the problem
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is on a world tour, much like the princes and princesses of Europe used to do. And the British still do a ‘grand tour’ of the world — they see the sights and meet the locals. Of course, Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the United States is ostensibly to interact with political and thought leaders and to try to get a sense of global events and technology. During his visit to Northern California, he, like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, visited the Tesla car factory. Tesla, of course, is the company that is revolutionising the automotive industry across the world with their electric cars. India too announced its intention to move down the electric path — his visit was a smart one. Following that, Rahul Gandhi addressed students at the University of California campus in Berkeley. If one were to ignore the crass and sycophantic comments by supposedly intelligent Congress leaders — more so the immensely stupid tweet by Salman Khurshid comparing Rahul Gandhi to Swami Vivekananda — the interaction was relatively good. Of course, there are some allegations that the questions were pre-selected and so on and that the audience was friendly, but Rahul Gandhi spoke with a candour that he would not do in India. One of the most controversial points that Rahul Gandhi brought up was the issue of political dynasties. He was correct in arguing that he should not be singled out as there are several other political dynasties in India, but his best friends are almost all dynasts. He was also correct in arguing that this is how India works across several industries. This obviously brought out very angry responses from the Bharatiya Janata Party, which immediately claimed that they were not a dynastic background, although Rahul Gandhi had brought out the Himachali father-son duo of Prem Kumar Dhumal and Anurag Thakur, but Thakur pointedly does not use his father’s surname. However, the angriest response to the dynastic comment came not from Rahul Gandhi’s political opponents but from actor Rishi Kapoor, a member of the Bollywood Kapoor clan, whose name had also come up in the discussion. Rishi Kapoor was quick to mention that while they were in their fourth generation of movie-making and acting, each and every one of the clan, who have done well, have earned the love and respect of fans.
Rishi Kapoor is correct. After all, there are so many star children in Bollywood, most notably Abhishek Bachchan, the son of India’s biggest superstar, who have not been fully accepted and loved by the public. And even in politics this holds true. Children of politicians often become good politicians because they grow up around politics, particularly in India’s caste and identity dominated political sphere, this is doubly true. Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav earned his spurs and looking at his recent performances, Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar Tejashwi Yadav is not doing bad either. Yes, the BJP is less dynastic than other parties and if Modi’s vision for India does not get derailed by micro-management, Indian politics will also become highly professionalised like in Western democracies. Being a dynast is no guarantee of success, it isn’t Rahul Gandhi’s fault to have been born where he was, but if he hopes to inherit the crown, he needs to earn it.
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