Friday, June 14, 2024

Ratna Column :Dynastic politics, hereditary principle bane of our democracy

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Ideally people should choose their legislators solely on merit. Yet, the practice of perpetuating the interests of certain families that have attained political dominance in independent India at various points of time for historical reasons due to emergence of ‘dynastic politics’ and the principle of hereditary political succession followed widely in regional parties have become the bane of democracy in the country today.

The unwritten rule in most political parties is that only the kith and kin of incumbent lawmakers are fit to take on their mantle once they remove themselves (or are removed) from the picture. This is done regardless of the capabilities of the kith and kin aspiring to step into the shoes of outgoing lawmakers.

The Congress party, which spearheaded the freedom movement and was mainly responsible for getting rid of alien rule in the country, was the need of hour in the last quarter of the 19th century.  Following the revolt of 1857, the British government understood, through its rulers in India, that there should be a public forum for Indians to voice their feelings and emotions about the prevailing situation from time to time.

Otherwise, long-suppressed emotions could erupt like the revolt. Finally, Allen Octavia Hume, an Englishman, launched the Indian National Congress in 1885. The INC helped achieve freedom in 1947. Indians later affectionately embraced INC and gave it power at a time when there was hardly any other party with comparable background.

The Communist Party of India made its appearance on the Indian political screen in the first quarter of the 20th century. But it could not influence the masses of the country, except in two or three states. The Congress has been under the control the Nehru family, though efficient leaders like U.N. Dhebar and Kamaraj Nadar had headed the party mainly to create a hassle-free atmosphere for then Prime Minister Pandit Nehru. Later, Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi took over. In fact, she steered the country’s ruling party even during Nehru’s prime ministership. 

Although Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi were considered to be political heirs of the Gandhi-Nehru family, they were not made Prime Ministers by their father and mother respectively. Indira had faced much struggle after the demise of Nehru as a result of politics played by the Congress syndicate members of Kamaraj, Nijalingappa, Morarji Desai and S. K. Patil. She got an opportunity only after the sudden demise of her father’s successor Lal Bahadur Sastry in the first half of 1966. Indira preferred to get public support by her populist decisions like nationalization of banks. Indira Gandhi had played no role in Rajiv Gandhi becoming her successor. He took oath as Prime Minister only after the death of his mother.

At the national level, the CPI, CPI(M) and the Bharatiya Janata Party are known to be averse to dynastic politics, though some leaders groom their children to work for frontal organisations of the parties concerned. Tall Communist leaders such E.M.S.

Namboordripad,  Jyoti Basu, Nrupen Chakravorthy had no political heirs. E. M. S was the head of the first elected government of Communists (1957-59 Kerala) and Jyoti Basu (West Bengal) & Nrupen Chakravorthy(Tripura) were among the longest-serving chief ministers in the country. They had set high standards in the country’s politics.

Regional political outfits have become the breeding grounds for hereditary succession. No wonder, legislators of regional parties are following in the footsteps of their leadership. This explains the political situation in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. In Telangana, Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has shown no hesitation in grooming his son and Minister K. Taraka Rama Rao (KTR) to take over his mantle at an appropriate time. KTR is known to be ‘chief minister in waiting’! No wonder, BRS legislators are desirous of making their children their successors.

In Telangana, the Congress and the BJP would go as per the agenda set by their national leadership. Rahul Gandhi did not allow some his party leaders to make their sons as legislators in 2018 by setting a bar of ‘one ticket for one family’ rule.

In Andhra Pradesh, Telugu Desam Party and YSR Congress Party are encouraging politics of heredity. Even TDP founder N. T. Rama Rao, a four-time chief minister, speaking in 1988 at Madanapalle, had once expressed his hope that people of AP would ‘mould’ his heir in the film industry Balakrishna as their leader. Later, he became silent following criticism from various quarters.

Later, his son-in-law N. Chandrababu Naidu spearheaded the movement for restoration of democracy in August, 1984, following the dethronement of NTR by his cabinet colleague Nadendla Bhaskar Rao. It is a different matter that Naidu led the dethronement of NTR for the second time in 1995 and thereafter remained in power as CM for eight and half years.

Naidu has set up youth brigades consisting sons of several MLAs, ignoring the second rung leaders in the party who await their turn to become MLAs. Second rung leaders in BRS, TDP and YSRCP are sore over the encouragement being given to sons and daughters of MLAs.

T. Jeevan Reddy, Javvadi Ratnakar Rao, Vangaveeti Mohana Ranga Rao, Perni Krishna Murthy, Anam Vivekananda Reddy, Ambati Bhrahmanaiah, Renuka Chowdary, Konda Surekha and Mopidevi Venkata Ramanarao were once members of local bodies.They later became MLAs. It is not surprising that such leaders actively groom their kith and kin these days everywhere.

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