Papa don’t preach

Politics is strewn with unresolved father-son issues

Written by The Indian Express | Published: April 1, 2013 10:09:51 pm

Politics is strewn with unresolved father-son issues

Stop it,you’re embarrassing me!” That teenage complaint seems to follow many of India’s politicians well into middle age,as they struggle against the shadow of their famous fathers. For instance,J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is widely considered to have one of the most challenging jobs in government. But he thinks Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has a worse lot in life,because his father allegedly embarrasses him more frequently and thoroughly than Omar’s own. He has empathised with Akhilesh on having to see his father criticise his government in public and deal with pushy uncles. He also went on at some length recently about his self-consciousness (“to the point of insanity”) in appearing on stage with his father,with whom he is known to share a somewhat prickly relationship.

Another filial drama is currently playing out in Pakistan,with President Asif Ali Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari,PPP president,reportedly falling out over the party’s recent positions. The various political dynasties scattered around south Asia make for interesting armchair psychology. Making a political mark is about grappling with your influential predecessors,a power game of ousting and bettering as well as imitating and honouring. When that authoritative precursor happens to be your father,the impulses of love and rivalry must be even more charged. While Akhilesh Yadav displays less Oedipal competition than Omar,he is constrained in similar ways — his father was chief minister before him,leads the party,and directs all its energies and his actions towards his own ambition. Omar Abdullah,meanwhile,has a whole genealogy to overcome.

These tensions may seem trivial,merely the family’s problem,but they can have big effects for the rest of us. Just recall George W. Bush’s disastrous attempt to impress his “Poppy”.

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