The term Dynastic Politics in India is most strongly associated with the Congress and the Gandhi family, while in every state too other parties and families engage in it too, be it in Meghalaya or Tamil Naidu. In this backdrop, a case of dynastic politics which is dominating the headlines for over six months is the Yadav clan of Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh, where Father- Son duo are battling it out to head the party which has led them into serious prospects of the Election Commission freezing the party’s election symbol ‘cycle’. This has opened up a new dimension for scholars researching Political Dynasties Succeed in India where a family tussle can ruin a party’s prospects.
History has only witnessed how in most constrained situations, dynastic politics has always bailed out the situation. One such situation which India can never forget was how the then Chief Minister of Bihar, Lalu Prasad Yadav, who was convicted for his involvement in the fodder scam in 1997, installed his wife Rabri Devi, who was a simply house wife as Chief Minister of the State. Together, they governed for nearly 15 years between 1990 and 2005. She might have once again taken a back seat but both their sons are now Members of the Bihar Legislative Assembly.
When India attained independence about 70 years ago, it broke free from two kinds of dynastic rule. First totally cutting off ties with the British crown, secondly, it integrated more than 500 princely states into the Indian union immediately after Independence, but un-intentionally this has given birth to another form of dynastic rule which emerged in the country, which we now call elected political dynasties.
Besides the dynasties of the Nehru-Gandhi family, there are other different forms and to different degrees which exist in a number of political parties in India. Some of these dynasties are at the helm of their parties, among them the Karunanidhi family of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Yadavs of the Samajwadi Party, and the Badals of the Akali Dal. The BJP leader and current Home Minister Rajnath Singh, for instance, has been followed into politics by his son Pankaj who has twice served as the party’s general secretary in Uttar Pradesh. But many other families are found burrowed within parties, dominating units at the local level, or occupying positions in party organisations. They are less well known, but no less important. So, to fully examine the extent to which Indian politics is dynastic, we have to look beyond the Congress and the highest echelons of other parties.
However the Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav high political ‘tamasha’, where on January 9, 2017 evening, the party Supremo, popularly known as Netaji, made a U-turn and declared that Akhilesh would be the Chief Minister if the party won the upcoming Assembly Polls. However, a source close to the Chief Minister confirmed the “persisting mutual distrust” but expressed happiness they had met, which lasted about 90-minute at Mulayam Singh’s residence.
Political observers feel that by yielding some space to Akhilesh Yadav, Mulayam Singh was trying to isolate the Chief Minister by painting him as one who defied not only the party constitution but was greedy for power even if it meant tripping his ageing father.
Since the Election Code of Conduct are imposed, the party workers have very limited time to make a decision in case the Election Commission allow different election symbol, it will surely affect the prospects of the party, where most of the electorates cast their respective vote on the known symbol.
The political observers also felt that Netaji (Mulayam) was making an effort to dislodge his shadow from his son- Akhilesh, who for two terms as Chief Minister was functioning under pressure and is now allowed to flex his muscle to prove his popularity and command over the party and its affairs. Also the burring issues relating to the future of Ram Gopal Yadav, Shivpal Yadav and Amar Singh and distribution of tickets and a possible alliance with the Congress.
All such are the normal activities of any of the political parties in India, but the method adopted by Samajwadi Party chief, taking not only the people of Uttar Pradesh but the entire nation for a ride, only to prove a point, to establish the political future of Akhilesh, who was earlier known to be an obedient son, who will not take any decision before consulting Netaji, is writing a new angle of dynastic politics in India.
The result of his exercise will be made known really soon via the verdict on March 11, 2017.