A key talking point in the election campaign for the five states — that ended Wednesday — was dynasties in power or aspiring to power. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah underlined the Congress’s First Family for promoting dynastic rule, Congress president Rahul Gandhi criticised Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao for favouring his family with government jobs.
An analysis by The Indian Express of the three outgoing Assemblies in Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh shows that while the BJP has more number of dynasts than the Congress in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the Congress leads in Chhattisgarh. However, when it comes to dynasts as a share of lawmakers, Congress leads by a wide margin.
A dynastic MLA is one who has had a close family member related by blood or marriage in active politics.
In the outgoing Madhya Pradesh Assembly of 230 elected members, BJP has 165 lawmakers, of which 20 are dynasts. The Congress, with 58 members, has 17 dynasts. Although the BJP leads in absolute numbers, when it comes to dynasts as a share of a party’s MLAs, Congress tops with 29 per cent against BJP’s 12 per cent.
Most of these dynast MLAs listed out are split on the benefits, with some believing that the proven track record of their father or mother gives them a headstart and others complaining that the bar of expectation are higher for them.
Hemant Khandelwal, the BJP MLA from Betul, is the son of late BJP MP Vijay Khandelwal. His father was a Lok Sabha member for four terms. He thinks “it works both ways”. “If you don’t have any wajud (identity), you fade out. You get an identity as someone’s son but then people expect more from you. If you are on a par or better, people accept you. If you don’t belong to a political family, people have much lower expectations,” he said.
Dynastic politics hasn’t changed much, except for the characteristics of the dynastic class. In the first Madhya Pradesh Assembly election in 1957, 20 of the 23 dynastic politicians elected were from the royal or aristocratic families, says New York University professor of politics Kanchan Chandra in ‘Democratic Dynasties’, the book he edited. Sixty-one years later, the only difference is that there is less of aristocratic members and more from other segments.
In Rajasthan, a state formed out of 22 princely states, of the 200 MLAs, 23 of the 160 BJP MLAs are dynasts and eight of the 25 Congress MLAs are dynasts.
An unintended upshot of the dynastic politics is healthy representation of women. Of the dynastic MLAs, 19 are women — 14 from BJP and five from Congress, including Renu Jogi, who is contesting this time for Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) founded by her husband and former Chhattisgarh CM Ajit Jogi. Another prominent face is Rajasthan chief minister and BJP leader Vasundhara Raje Scindia, the daughter of the former maharaja of Gwalior and the late Vijaya Raje Scindia.
The Scindias have had a successful run in politics for generations across parties in both Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Vasundhara’s sister is Madhya Pradesh Sports Minister Yashodhara Raje Scindia.
“My mother was revered by everyone across the political spectrum. It’s a legacy I am proud of. Expectations were very high. You have to work doubly hard. Today’s politics has changed by 180 degrees. The yardstick to judge me is very different. Today’s generations don’t have any memories of her. Your performance and work gets you votes, not the name,” said Yashodhara.
Dynastic politics is in its infancy in Chhattisgarh, a state carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2000. In the outgoing assembly of 90 lawmakers, nine are dynasts — three from BJP’s 49 MLAs and six from Congress’s 39, including Amit Jogi who was expelled from the party last year and is now part of his father Ajit Jogi’s JCC.