No, India can’t afford families that destabilise entire governments

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was not fully in charge as the ministers and bureaucrats were more loyal to Mulayam than Akhilesh, diluting the latter’s hold on the state.

Written by Kanishka Singh | New Delhi | Updated: September 16, 2016 3:41 pm
samajwadi party, samajwadi party fight, akhilesh yadav, shivpal yadav, mulayam singh yadav, sp fighting, sp struggle, shivpal resignation, dynasty politics india, samajwadi party family fight, indian express news, india news SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav at an event in Lucknow last week. (Source: Pramod Adhikari)

After the extended spell of mud slinging in Uttar Pradesh’s first family, it is time we started questioning volatile families taking the lead in Indian politics. Why should people suffer unstable government due to internal rifts in the families? Factionalism in the party and in the families leading those parties changes political dynamics every few years.

The fact that political dynasties have ruled over India and held clout for generations is evident. What is more disconcerting is that the dynasty name often holds more value than the individual competence of a leader and the transcending influence on the bureaucratic set-up hits the core values of our prized democratic political structure.

In a democracy like India, you can stand for office but the chances of being elected through the non-hereditary route are low, really low. Hereditary politicians enter the political arena at a much earlier age and enjoy a head start that runs into many years. However, that does not mean greenhorns have an easy run. They actually end up running into the old guard who are unwilling to let go of their authority leading to public outbursts that end up shaking public confidence in the leadership.

Internal rifts in political families have plagued the interests of the people for generations now. Even within the parties it stalls the growth of people from outside the clan who might be far more talented and deserving. It is time all this is brought to an end.

Mulayam Singh placed his son Akhilesh Yadav at the helm in Lucknow four-and-a-half years ago to secure UP as he looked at carving more ground out at the Centre. However, this did not mean the Chief Minister was fully in charge as the ministers and bureaucrats were more loyal to Mulayam than Akhilesh, diluting the latter’s hold on the state. A furious Akhilesh had also fired almost every poll in-charge and most of the Samajwadi Party core executive after their embarrassing showing in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 where the party was reduced to only 5 seats out of 80 in the state, down from an already dismal 23 in 2009. Now, he struggles in a power tussle between him, his father and his uncles.

The oldest political dynasty of India, the Congress has had the highest share of factional rifts and family tussles. Sonia Gandhi, for instance, has been quietly pulling the strings of Congress governments for nearly two decades now. As Rahul Gandhi struggles to comes out of his mother’s shadows, staunch supporters of Sonia have refused to pledge allegiance to the junior Gandhi.

The Lalu Yadav clan too has witnessed a similar tale. After years at the helm along with wife Rabri and her controversial brother Anirudh Prasad, popular as Sadhu Yadav, the RJD is slowly ushering in the next generation of Tejaswi, Tej Pratap and Misa. But decisions to appease the Yadav clan have marred the grand alliance in recent times.

In Punjab, the Badals have been in and out of power for many decades now. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s son Sukhbir Badal is the deputy CM but literally runs the show in the state as his wife Harsimrat Kaur enjoys a Cabinet position in the Centre. In 2010, Manpreet Singh, the estranged nephew of Parkash Singh Badal, was ousted from the Shiromani Akali Dal and from his position as the state Finance Minister over differences in opinions.

Manpreet, president of the People’s Party of Punjab and four-time MLA from Gidderbaha constituency, recently joined the Congress as a direct opponent to his uncle. At the time of his ouster, Manpreet had lashed out at the senior Badals arguing that the “voice of truth cannot be gagged under government pressure”. With anti-incumbency weighing on the Badals just months to go for the state elections, it seems they will have to fight the family too to stay in power.

Meanwhile, family politics is rife in Tamil Nadu’s DMK, the Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra and the Devegowdas in Karnataka to name a few. And this is just a few as the list is almost endless and figures at least one clan in each state. A good reason why India has to find a new political ethos coming to terms with the reality that as long as families rule India, we will never get truly stable governments.