BJP narrative for 2024 to be ‘dynasty-free Bharat’

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BJP narrative for 2024 to be ‘dynasty-free Bharat’

Tuesday, 26 July 2022 | Kalyani Shankar

The theme would be that while the BJP is devoted to the nation, dynasty-run parties are ‘devoted to families’

Dynastic politics is perhaps the antithesis of democracy. Critics say it is amongst many political evils in the Indian democratic setup where most parties, including the Congress, are being run like family enterprises. The paradox is that many regional satraps have emerged in the past 75 years and co-exist in a democracy. More are emerging.

National parties are at the forefront of the phenomenon across all states. Except for a handful like the communist parties, only seven or eight of the fifty relevant parties in India are free from dynastic rule.

During the 42nd Foundation day of Bharatiya Janata Party recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi observed, "There are still two kinds of politics going on in this country. One is the politics of family devotion (dynasts), and the other (like BJP) is committed to patriotism." While 'Congress-free' Bharat and 'corruption-free' India were prominent BJP slogans in the last two Lok Sabha elections, the narrative for the 2024 campaign would be ‘dynasty-free Bharat.’

The theme would be that while the BJP was devoted to the nation, parties were "devoted to families." The narrative covers regional parties also, most of which are family-oriented.

The BJP has now realised that the real threat comes from the family-ruled regional parties in several states. After sidelining the Congress dynasty, the BJP has identified eight prominent families that dominate state politics nationwide; the BJP intends to decimate them politically, failing which it joins them as an ally. Telangana, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, and Rajasthan will hold Assembly elections in 2023. Therefore, eliminating the provincial czars would be Modi's next big project.

The question is whether it is possible to eliminate the dynasts as visualised by the BJP? It is indeed ambitious.From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, there are many dynastic families like the Abdullahs. Tall leaders among them mesmerised their electorate. The Muftis in Kashmir, the Badals and Captain Amerindra Singh in Punjab, the Rajes and Pilots in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, and the Yadavs in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are such dynasts.

Naveen Patnaik in Odisha, the Gowdas and Bommais in Karnataka, the Gogois in Assam, the Karunanidhis in Tamil Nadu, the Raos and the Reddys in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the Sorens in Jharkhand, and the Chautalas and Hoodas in Haryana are notable.

The southern states are currently under the sway of regional satraps—Telangana Rashtra Samithi's K. Chandrashekar Rao, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh, MK Stalin in Tamil Nadu, and Pinarayi Vijayan in Kerala. The BJP aims to weaken all four of them as their next project.

The party currently has just four MLAs in Tamil Nadu (riding piggyback on the AIADMK) and none in Andhra Pradesh or Kerala. Telangana has three MLAs, which it has won on its own steam. Therefore, the first step would be to weaken them. There are 120 seats in the five states in the South. Despite all its efforts, the BJP could not find a hold in southern states except in Karnataka.

Now comes the question as to why do these dynastic leaders sway people? Family-oriented parties choose their kith and kin to succeed because they feel they are more an asset than a liability. They find it easy to install and train them to take over when they die. Besides, they see them as more an asset than a liability.

Secondly, family candidates are more likely to get elected than new candidates. Thirdly, some regional czars have realised that establishing family rule gives them loyalty and confidence. A party like the DMK is also reconciled to dealing with the Karunanidhi dynasty.

On the other hand, the BJP and many others think that dynastic politics is not good in a democracy as it enables only those leaders who have strong connections with the family. New fiefdoms boasting of family rule have emerged all over India.

It discourages new talents from coming forward. But the BJP is not alien to dynastic politics. Critics point out that this does not seem to apply to dynasts such as Jyotiraditya Scindia, Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan, Anurag Thakur, and Kiren Rijiju—all Cabinet ministers in the Modi government. Nor can it apply to the BJP's chief ministers such as Basavaraj Bommai of Karnataka or Pema Khandu of Arunachal Pradesh

It's premature to expect the end of political dynasties as it may take a while because people are stuck with the dynasts for now. The present-day leaders are not ashamed of projecting their family members as political heirs. Dynastic families have three advantages—name capital, cultural capital, and financial capital. Though the BJP wants a dynasty-mukt Bharat, as long as dynasts can attract voters with a coherent narrative and possess the ability to convince them, they will hold on to their fiefdoms. The only consolation is that even the dynasts have come through the electoral process.

(The writer is a senior journalist. The views expressed are personal.)

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