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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Dynastic democracy is fashionable

When Priyanka Gandhi’s clothes became a major political story last week,I realised sadly that it was time for me to stop being a conscientious objector to dynastic democracy.

Written by Tavleen Singh |
May 10, 2009 3:32:26 am

When Priyanka Gandhi’s clothes became a major political story last week,I realised sadly that it was time for me to stop being a conscientious objector to dynastic democracy. You cannot argue with the box office. And,if Priyanka’s fashion sense can become the subject of full-length TV shows,we can be sure that the box office loves her. The male anchor of the show I watched could hardly contain his excitement as images of Priyanka in handloom saris of varied hue dissolved into each other juxtaposed with images of her famous grandmother in similar saris. “Yes. She dresses like her grandmother,” the anchor said rapturously,“but she is a modern young woman who has to appeal to young Indians of today,so when she went to cast her vote in the constituency of New Delhi,she wore a dark t-shirt and black jeans. And,she looked beautiful,absolutely beautiful.” Another channel invited a group of serious fashion designers to discuss the matter. They pronounced Priyanka as ‘India’s new style icon’.

This was one of many tributes paid to Priyanka since she started campaigning for her family in Rae Bareli and Amethi. And,since she became accessible on a daily basis to the swarms of TV reporters who followed her every move. After her interview with Barkha Dutt I got calls from important politicians who said,“Didn’t you think she was wonderful? Didn’t you think she was Prime Minister material? You have to admit that she is much better than her brother. She is the real Gandhi.”

It might come as bad news for the Congress Party but this seems to be the general view. Rahul Gandhi has given more televised press conferences in the past week than in his entire political career and the consensus is that he has a sulky quality that is not attractive. In the words of one observer,“He looks like he is about to storm off in a sulk followed by a couple of ayahs.”

Unlike his sister,Rahul-baba has difficulties with the native tongue. He finds it hard to form a sentence that is not filled with English words that the ‘aam aadmi’ cannot possibly understand. When he tried explaining why he invited the British Foreign Secretary to spend the night in a village hut he said he wanted to ‘showcase’ not India’s poverty but the ‘shakti’ of India’s poor. Tch,tch,tch. Along with some Hindi lessons he needs to learn not to patronise people who have no choice but to be poor. It is not about ‘shakti’ but about survival.

How does it matter? The Chairman of Indian National Congress private limited has decided that it will be her son and not her daughter who will be the next Managing Director. Besides,dynastic democracy is now an epidemic. Everyone from the lowliest village official to the regional satrap has seen that a career in politics is the quickest way to build a family business. So a seat in the Lok Sabha is now a fiefdom to be passed down in the family and nearly all our political parties are now private limited companies.

My objections to dynastic democracy are based on the conviction that India will remain a poor,backward,corrupt country until we get real political leaders instead of heirs. During this long,dreary election campaign,I travelled in Orissa,Gujarat,Maharashtra,Haryana and Karnataka,and everywhere I went I saw that everything that was ‘world class’ had been created by private citizens and everything that was second rate was the work of government. The best schools,hospitals and companies were those that had not been touched by government. Everywhere government had failed to do its bit by building the roads and public amenities that are its specific job.

No matter how much good we try to do as private citizens,we need political leaders to do their share. We have the largest number of poor and illiterate people in the world,half our children are malnourished,millions are not in school and more than 70 per cent of our population lives in conditions that should be declared unfit for human habitation. They live without clean water,sanitation and basic hygiene and mostly in windowless hovels. This is true even in our progressive states.

It is my considered opinion that we will not find solutions to these problems until we get real political leaders. It is my considered opinion that real political leaders do not come from dynastic succession. Real leaders come from real political movements not because they are born with the right name. But,you cannot argue with the box office. If we end up with another Gandhi as prime minister,some day soon it will be because we love our ruling dynasty.

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