Like it or not, dynastic politics in democratic India is here to stay

Florine Roche

Jan 21: In the charged political atmosphere of Delhi assembly elections the issue of dynastic politics is once again making headlines as top BJP leaders are vying for tickets (at the time of writing this article) for their kith and kin in the forthcoming assembly elections. This has put the BJP on the wrong foot because Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been a strong opponent of dynastic politics and had promised to put an end to family rule in Indian politics.

It is true that when we talk about dynastic politics in India the first name that comes into our mind is that of the Nehru-Gandhi family. The Nehru-Gandhi family has been the custodian of Indian politics for nearly 40 to 50 years since independence and there are indications that it will continue for some more time.

However, a look at India’s political spectrum clearly shows that family rule is no more the exclusive preserve of the Congress. We have to face the reality where every other political party in India except to some extent the cadre based Marxist, is afflicted with this dynastic succession in politics. One cannot say for sure that other political parties took Indira Gandhi’s dynastic politics as a role model or it just happened because of the human greed for power and wealth. Power automatically begets wealth and vice versa.

Interestingly, it is not just India but many developing democracies of South Asia and in some dictatorship ruled countries have proved to be fertile grounds for the growth and flourish of elected dynastic politics. In fact Corruption, nepotism and family’s dynastic rule are said to be three major reasons for the defeat of Mahinda Rajpaksa in the recently concluded Presidential elections in Sri Lanka. During his 10 year rule it is said that over 40 top government positions were in the hands of his family friends. One of his brothers was defence secretary, another was speaker of the parliament, a nephew was the Chief Minister of a Province and another brother-in-law was heading Sri Lankan Airlines as its chairman. He has also groomed his son to be his successor. In Nepal we have the Koirala family, Bangladesh has Begum Khalida Zia and Sheik Hasina, Myanmar has Aung San Suu Kyi, Bhutto family in Pakistan, Bhandarnaike family in Lanka - perfect examples of flourishing dynastic political families.

There also have been republic dynasties with North Korea leading the way when President Km II Sung who ruled for 49 years. He was succeeded by his son Kim Jong II in 1994 after his father’s death. In doing so this family became the communist party’s first political dynasty. Even big brother USA is not free from political dynasties which are common in local and state politics. Bush, Gore and Clinton families are prominent dynastic families ruling the roost in US. Philippines, Indonesia and some African countries also have been under the control of dynastic families.

Since it is a general trend worldwide India need not take umbrage about its dynastic politics encompassing every political party be it at national, regional and local politics. Apart from the much vilified Nehru-Gandhi family our elected democracy is loaded with political families whose forefathers, grandparents, grandmothers, fathers, mothers, in-laws, brothers, sisters, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, sons-in-law, uncles, aunts, cousins, sons, daughters and even grandchildren making politics as a family business. Dynastic politics is here to stay and flourish in democratic India, whether we like it or not.

Let us a look at the political spectrum of four southern states. In Tamil Nadu the DMK, which once represented Dravidian nationalism, has become the sole property of Karunanidhi family. All the major regional parties in Seemandhra and Telengana have family rules. Chandrababu Naidu carries on the mantle of NTR, Jagan Reddy continue YSR family politics and in the newly formed Telengana state Chandrashekar Rao has already put a firm foundation for dynastic politics. Chandrashekar’s son K T Rama Rao is a cabinet minister. His daughter is a MP and his nephew is also a cabinet minister. Soon his daughter will also be given some important position in cabinet. In Karnataka Deve Gowda exploited his ‘son of the soil’ image for the benefit of his own family and his son former Chief Minister Kumaraswamy is now heading the JD(S). Former CM Yeddyurappa’s son is already in politics.

In UP it is Mulayam Yadav family which continues the tradition of family rule. The incident of Rabri Devi’s transformation from kitchen to Chief Minister’s gaddi in Bihar is clearly etched in public memory. Orissa continues the tradition of Patnaik family rule. Rajasthan has Scindia family sitting pretty running the affairs of the state for a long time. In Madhya Pradesh the Scindia family’s hold is still strong. In Maharashtra the Shiva Sena is firmly under the grip of Bal Thackeray‘s son Udhav and now Udhav’s son is slowly making his debut as a politician. Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya is already in active politics. In Kashmir for the Abdulla family the only career is politics and PDP is ruled by Mufti Mohammed family. More than the cadre-based national political parties it is the regional parties in India where dynastic politics is under the stranglehold of one or two families.

It is unfortunate that instead of moving away from family rule and make the political process more democratic India is inching towards family politics rather than moving away from it. Though Narendra Modi staunchly criticised the Congress for its dependence on Nehru Gandhi family, he is unable to curtain this trend in his own party. Instead dynastic politics has become even more rampant. For the BJP winning the seats seems more imperative than the idea of sticking to its poll promises. Following the death of Gopinath Munde the BJP fielded his daughter Prita in Maharashtra and she scripted history by winning the by-poll Beed by a record margin of 7 lakh votes. Pramod Mahajan’s daughter Poonam Mahajan has also been elected as a MP in the recent general elections.

And now Delhi once again witnessed such a trend in the BJP which has always shown an accusing finger at others especially the Congress. While the compulsion of winning the Delhi assembly is heavier on the BJP than its rivals, it faced this onslaught in the form of BJP heavyweights vying to get tickets for their kith and kin. With the BJP citing age as a factor for denying tickets, many veterans tried to continue the legacy by securing seats for their children. Frontrunners for the tickets in Delhi were Harish Khurana, son of former Chief Minister Madan Lal Khurana ans Sahib Singh Verma’s son Azad Singh. Vijay Goel, Ramesh Bidhuri and Manoj Tiwari, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, also tried all means to secure tickets for their family members.

These politicians defend themselves saying if a doctor’s son/daughter can become a doctor and an engineer’s son/daughter becomes an engineer what is wrong in a politician becoming a politician? Agreed! This was true especially earlier when the choices were limited. The same logic does not hold true now. Today doctor’s and engineer’s children are exploring fields other than that of their parents or grandparents. They have been able to make a name for themselves by their own efforts in their chosen fields. Dynastic politics is also a great impediment for common people who find it difficult to make political foray without the power of three ‘M’s namely money, muscle and materials- get an opening in politics. Of course, the Aam Aadmi Party has been an exception in this direction where even a commoner could think of getting into politics.

Dynastic politics in India has blossomed mainly because of the exposure such family members get being in politics. Due to high connections and the power of time, money and resources, these family members have an upper hand as against others who don’t have such an advantage. Political lineage and money power helps gaining the initial entry into the field. 

Political lineage alone should not be the criterion for electing leaders in a democracy. It is also the responsibility of the electorate to choose a candidate having credentials and talent other than just a family pedigree.


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Comment on this article

  • Pastor E. W. Frank, Udupi-576101

    Thu, Jan 29 2015

    Dear Daiji:

    How Mody can support dynastic politics. He has dethroned his wife who should be the 1st Lady of India. When Barak Obama came with his wife, Mody did not bring his wife with him. What a shame it is for India. Clean dynastic rule is OK. But unity is very important. Let this type of hypocrites keep their mouth shut. Poor Modi's wife. Very good lady and humble 1st lady of India.

    Pastor E. W. Frank, Pres.

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  • NKS, Mlore

    Thu, Jan 22 2015

    Good article. Dynastic politics came from how Indian society used to work before. Profession was passed in next generation. The things started changing when some professions were more lucrative and more options opened up for all.
    If the profession is lucrative like politics, Bollywood profitable businesses(Wipro, HCL, Infy, TATA, Reliance, Birla....) the system sustained.
    Over all even in Dynastic politics they may get advantage in the beginning. But in the long run only those with capability survive. Rest will move on to other fields.

    DisAgree Agree [1] Reply Report Abuse

  • R.Bhandarkar, Mangaluru

    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    R:Mummy Mummy...Momsy..
    Mummy: What now ..where have you put your mouth...
    R: Mummy...Florine...Florine...
    Mummy: (shocked ) What have you done to....
    R: No Moms, not anything like that...She ...She ..(blushes slightly) has drawn a cartoon sort of ....You towing me in a pram....
    Even I found it funny....!!
    Mummy :Really-Let me see...(Looks at the monitor)...
    Son, it's o.k. by me.What if she had drawn a 'popcee bottle' in your mouth and a '5 Star' in your hand??
    Thank God for small mercies.
    R: Mummy Mummy...I want to meet Florine, I hear she is multi talented and...
    Mummy: What??
    R: I want to see if some of her talent 'rubs off on me'....
    Mummy: Arrrrrrrrrg...Arrrrrrrrrf
    Do you think it is 'Iodex' to rub off on you? If it were to 'rub' off that way ...You would not have been in the 'Pram' still...
    Till where have your lessons come?
    Where have they all gone? Where is that Kidney Comedian????

    DisAgree [8] Agree [5] Reply Report Abuse

  • Sunil Nelson D'souza, Udupi/Dubai

    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    Dear Madam, as per BJP Dynastic politics means people are in top post responsible for running a whole institution, like in Congress presidents from Jawaharlal Nehru,Indira,Rajiv and now Sonia. At other level father son or relatives are in a position of importance is not called dynasty like Yeshwanth Sings son, well educated now MOS Finance Minister.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [2] Reply Report Abuse

  • yogesh, bombay

    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    Dynastic politics ruining India. Dynastic casting ruining Bollywood and same holds for Indian cricket!!!Budding talents nipped in the bud!

    DisAgree Agree [12] Reply Report Abuse

  • True Indian, kudla

    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    We are living in a country where we have two big political party to vote.BJP and CONGRESS.We dont have any other option to vote for.Well Mr.Kejrival did a great job and i would like to say a great achievement.I wish AAP emerges the same way in karnataka and one day in INDIA too.Humiliated by many but still he dint give up.When the people of India realize this.half one party looted,now other half other party.Will it continue to be the same.if yes for how long? #WAKE UP PEOPLE.#PEACE

    DisAgree [6] Agree [12] Reply Report Abuse

  • common man, Mangaluru

    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    What has been working in India is money power... With the corporate houses, media and political dynasties form a lethal combination... it is just too hard for a common man to make inroads into a tough political scene...

    DisAgree Agree [8] Reply Report Abuse

  • True indian, kudla

    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    I know its next to impossible for a common man.How can a common man gain publicity?he/her cant buy media?he/her cant take any non-political wing with them.People will laugh at them.Our hands are tied and we are forced to believe that you have to choose from these two political parties.Bring changes people.Think development.Try to bring changes.Lets give one chance to them to rule..#PEACE

    DisAgree Agree [1] Reply Report Abuse

  • gm, mlure

    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    Now only kejriwal is the best one.

    DisAgree [11] Agree [18] Reply Report Abuse


    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    And why shouldn't there be dynastic politics. Dynasty factor is there in all professions. Actors, doctors, lawyers, goldsmiths, blacksmiths, you name it. The only disagreeable factor in dynastic politics is that you don't need qualifications nor talents

    DisAgree [3] Agree [15] Reply Report Abuse


    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    Dynastic Politics Is Like A Dynamite...

    DisAgree [3] Agree [9] Reply Report Abuse

  • Denzil, Mangalore

    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    Democracy has been hard won but the travesty of this democracy today has been the dynastic politics in democratic India. The dynasties hardly represent the electorate today due to self-interest and greed which is never ending.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [5] Reply Report Abuse

  • Aam Indian, M'lore/Bahrain

    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    Dynastic Politics is no harm as long as the person of that family is a good and sincere leader. As far as Nehru/Gandhi family is concerned and if you take back as far as Motilal Nehru was concerned, this family has dedicated all their life for the politics and upliftment of India. Motilal was The Richest man in England and one point and he ditched all his riches and came to India to fight against the British. since then this whole family has fully dedicated their lives for India and two of them mercilessly killed. It is different that a son or daughter following the father or mother in Indian politics but in the case of Gandhi's they have sacrificed everything for the country.

    The present government trying to tarnish their image as much as possible in vain. They cannot deny that without Gandhi family India would not have been where it is today. If you ask me as a commoner the time of Emergency was the most peaceful and good time that I had in my life and it was the only time that peace prevailed in India to a large extent.
    There is no Family in politics as dedicated, as loved and as renowned as Gandhi family and their memories in my mind and love in my heart will remain forever.

    DisAgree [19] Agree [18] Reply Report Abuse

  • sunill, bengaluru

    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    nationalistic indians wanted to be ruled by a nationalistic leader.

    DisAgree [6] Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

  • Jossey Saldanha, Mumbai

    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    FEKU should nominate JASHODHABEN ...

    DisAgree [30] Agree [31] Reply Report Abuse

  • Lingappa, Kuppepadavu/Amsterdam

    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    Then Antanio Maino Khan should nominate Franco Lousion..

    DisAgree [21] Agree [12] Reply Report Abuse

  • Prakash Mascarenhas, Uppinangady / Dubai

    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    Yedddi & family

    DisAgree [12] Agree [17] Reply Report Abuse

  • vellano1, Mumbai

    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    nice write up!.. I am of the opinion that, nobody should be "kept away" just because he belongs to a family, if he is really good!... Indira Gandhi was a better leader in entire Nehru family!.. Vijaylakshmi Pandit, Arun Nehru and rest never got to that position, inspite of being in corridors of power!... however, it becomes nasty when, somebody is chosen just because he belongs to a FAMILY and top post is reserved, generation after generation!... When George Bush junior became President, he was there on his own merit! similarly Hillary clinton fights on her own caliber... but if Hillary's daughter is chosen as president , in this young age , then it is dynastic infulence in my opinion!... Same way Kumarswamy is better than his father, but now it looks like his wives, son, his brothers all want to be CM, which is dynasty.. Naveen patnaik is good, even though he is there on his father's blessing.. but since he is unmarried, no question of next generation!...

    In India, Gandhis, Badals, Yadavs (wife, kith-kin anybody is OK for them), Karunanidhis, are all very bad examples! every constituency, has now become personal fiefdom... and hence when one MODI comes up from no where, every one rejoices.. :)

    DisAgree [6] Agree [19] Reply Report Abuse

  • John R Lobo, Kaikamba/Dubai

    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    This is the main reason I like NaMo.....Under his tenure in Gujarat his kith/kin/siblings NOT entertained. His near /dear relatives forbidden to participate in inaugural function.....He never kept huge booty for his next 7 generation. Hats off

    If remaining BJP Fudaries follow his footsteps within 15 year India Can walk along with China....Is it possible in India....?????????

    Akul Mokulu maami nakulu
    Maami Naklena Jokulu shele dakulu

    Akulu mokulu Police nakulu
    Police naklena jokulu poli nakulu

    DisAgree [3] Agree [15] Reply Report Abuse

  • vellano1, Mumbai

    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    I agree to all your point! Siddaramayya never takes his wife in any governemnt function, even when it is mandatory (for bagina samarpane or important oath taking.. he keeps her hidden always- whereas OScar doesn't go out without his wife)..but that is not Dynastic nature... its to show how family person you are!... but yes, Modi has kept distance from all trouble makers you generally find in family!... ABV was blinded by son in law Ranjan, Sonia was used by Robbert Vadra!...

    but still we CANT BEAT CHINA! Lets face it.. you know why? CHINA KEPT AWAY "MEDIA"! they dont have freedom to showcase bullshit or be PAID!!... here it is a biggest hurdle for development.. all channels are SOLD, every journo can be bought!

    DisAgree [1] Agree [7] Reply Report Abuse

  • sunill, bengaluru

    Wed, Jan 21 2015


    just imagine if india is also a communist country and media was also not in the picture.

    still those who rule us will find it more easy to loot us and be corrupted.i think that is in indians blood(not all but majorly).

    in china it is contrast.
    thier top leaders dont involve thier wife,son/daughter for future political grooming.
    deep down they think of thier nations interests and development.they dont have any caste or sect system.all peoples are of one color.even though corruption is there in thier country,recently they have cracked down on this menace and hanged even top communist leaders for corruption.

    india surely cant become like china even if it was under communiist rule.see our kerala and bengal they have devoloped thier states.for our indian communist guys china is thier rolemodel only in theory and not in implementation.

    DisAgree Agree [7] Report Abuse

  • R.Bhandarkar, Mangaluru

    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    1.No wonder for some of these 'Scions' say...
    This State is my 'Father's Property'
    Not Estate ? You ask... No No..'State' they reply....
    2.Only one toddler in one of the many baby chairs shown here,puts finger in his mouth and says sheepishly 'This country is my ancestral property'!!
    Guess who??

    DisAgree [7] Agree [16] Reply Report Abuse

  • John R Lobo, Kaikamba/Dubai

    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    You mean " Mummies " Son...?????

    whoooo,whooooo my " Lollipop missing"

    DisAgree [6] Agree [10] Reply Report Abuse

  • R.Bhandarkar, Mangaluru

    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    For a moment I thought it was our MLA....J.R. Lobo replying !!!

    DisAgree [5] Agree [12] Reply Report Abuse

  • yogesh, bombay

    Wed, Jan 21 2015

    If our MLAs read our comments here they will take "sanyaasa" from politics immdtly

    DisAgree Agree [9] Report Abuse

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