Thursday, May 23, 2024

Ratna Column: Successive electoral victories tend to make rulers autocratic

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Successive electoral victories registered by political parties suggest that people have reposed increasing levels of confidence in them. However, those at the helm of affairs in such dispensations tend to turn autocratic. By default, family rule becomes the norm in regional parties lacking internal democracy. Cadres of such parties follow the diktats of the leadership or those waiting in wings.

In Tamil Nadu, the Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam rule thrived under the leadership of patriarch M. Karunanidhi. The DMK was founded by former chief minister C. N. Annadurai after he came out of Dravida Khazagam (DK). DMK came to power in 1967. Within two years, CN died and M. Karunanidhi succeeded CN. In the early ‘70s, Tamil matinee idol MG Ramachandran left DMK to launch another party in the name Annadurai i. e. Anna DMK and grabbed power in 1977. He remained in power till his death in 1987. After the exit of MGR, DMK became a pocket organisation for M. Karunanidhi. Now his son M. K. Stalin is ruling Tamil Nadu, of course with the mandate of people. His son Udayanidhi Stalin is serving as Minister in his father’s cabinet and it would not be an uphill task for him to succeed his father in the days to come. In Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh ruled the state earlier and handed the reins of the biggest state in India to his son Akhilesh.

Indira Gandhi fought the 1967 General Election and established herself as an unmatched leader in the country. Thanks to nationalisation of banks in 1969 and her focus on poverty alleviation programmes, she returned to power in the 1971 elections. She became a global figure following the war that was fought for liberating Bangladesh from Pakistan. Then came the Emergency — in June 1975. People’s woes for 19 months translated into her defeat in the 1977 elections. Of course, she stormed to power following the failure of the Janata government that led to mid-term polls for the Lok Sabha in February 1980.

In the combined Andhra Pradesh, TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu dethroned his autocratic father-in-law, founder of TDP and four-time chief minister NT Rama Rao in 1995. As NTR’s kith and kin supported Naidu, things became easy for him and later he joined hands with BJP, whose popularity was very high as the Kargil War was fought successfully against Pakistan under the leadership of AB Vajpayee. Naidu retained power in the 1999 elections. In AP, TDP got 33% of votes and BJP secured 18% of votes. Naidu then took unpopular decisions, including hike in power tariff, which resulted in massive hunger strike by the entire opposition in the AP Assembly, including 91 Congress MLAs. Naidu lost power following mass awareness programme conducted by then Congress Legislature Party leader Dr. YS Rajasekhara Reddy with his 1,466-km-long Padayatra from Chevella (Ranga Reddy district) to Icchapuram (Srikakulam District).

In Bihar, Lalu Yadav was responsible for family rule as he and his wife Rabri Devi ruled Bihar for 15 years. After floating the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Lalu Yadav came to power in Bihar in 1990. When he had to step down following the filing of criminal cases against him, he made wife as his successor in 1997. If their son and Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar Tejaswi Yadav gets an opportunity tomorrow, it would be considered as perfect family rule.

In the youngest state of the country, there indications of family rule. K. Chandrasekhar Rao has been ruling Telangana – a state for which he had fought relentlessly for 13 years. KCR managed to be in the good books of electors during his first term by using Telangana vs Andhra sentiment. This came in handy for him during the 2018 elections for the T-Assembly as TDP president and Andhra chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu joined hands with the Congress. During his second stint, KCR projected his son K. T. Ramarao by making him cabinet colleague. The official machinery in T-state has been prepped for probable succession of KCR by KTR! KCR’s nephews T. Harish Rao (Finance Minister), Santosh (Rajya Sabha member), daughter Kavitha (MLC) are active in BRS politics. KCR is now eyeing a hat-trick win in the upcoming Assembly polls.

Odisha has been an exception of sorts to family rule. The father-son duo never created an impression that the state has been under family rule. Biju Patnaik fared well as chief minister and his son Navin Patnaik is set to become the longest-serving chief minister in the country!

The Congress party, under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi, ruled the country between 2004 and 2014. Undivided AP was solely responsible for the 10-year rule of UPA under the stewardship of Congress. The Congress got 30+ seats in two consecutive elections (2004 & 2009) for the Lok Sabha. Following the creation of Telangana, people of residual AP delivered the Congress a knock-out punch in 2014.

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