Babalog prophecy: Why Akhilesh won't ever transcend Mulayam

Akhilesh Yadav, and other family scions like him, are in politics because of their fathers or relatives. How can the babalog then chart a different trajectory?

Vivek Kaul July 05, 2012 16:24:14 IST
Babalog prophecy: Why Akhilesh won't ever transcend Mulayam

Scandinavian crime writers have been fairly popular over the last few years.  The likes of Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson have taken the world by storm. The latest Scandinavian sensation is Jo Nesbo, who has been writing a series of novels featuring a very “disturbed” Oslo police detective, Inspector Harry Hole.

Hole has a drinking problem. He has done drugs at various points of time. And the love of his life has left him and disappeared after she gets embroiled in one of the cases that Hole is investigating.  On top of this Hole shares a rather philosophical relationship with his father who is dying of cancer.

Nesbo writes the following paragraph in the context of the relationship that Hole shares with his father in a novel titled The Leopard:
"There were those who asserted that sons always became, to some degree or other, disguised variants of their fathers, that the experience of breaking out was never more than an illusion; you returned; the gravity of blood was not only stronger than your willpower, it was your willpower."

Nowhere is this truer than in the context of the Indian political scenario, when the sons and daughters take over the mantle of their politician parents. India is full of political scions who have taken over, or are taking over, or will take over from where their parents left or are likely to leave.

Let me try and make a random list of politicians who fulfill this criterion, starting from Jammu & Kashmir in the north and working my way down south to Tamil Nadu.

Omar Abdullah, the current Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir is the son of Dr Farooq Abdullah and grandson of Sheikh Abdullah, both career politicians. Himachal Pradesh is ruled by Prem Kumar Dhumal, whose son Anurag Thakur is a member of the Lok Sabha from Hamirpur and also a joint-secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Babalog prophecy Why Akhilesh wont ever transcend Mulayam

Every Indian MP under the age of 30 was a hereditary MP, i.e. his or her family member had made a career out of politics. More than two-thirds of the MPs under the age of 40 are hereditary. PTI

The CM of Punjab is Parkash Singh Badal. His son Sukhbir Singh Badal is the deputy CM and president of the Shiromani Akali Dal. Sheila Dikshit is the chief minister of Delhi. Her son Sandeep Dikshit is the member of Lok Sabha from the East Delhi constituency. Orissa, or Odisha as it is now known as, is ruled by Naveen Patnaik, son of the late Biju Patnaik.

Andhra Pradesh has scions of NT Rama Rao battling for political space. Jaganmohan Reddy, son of the late YS Rajasekhara Reddy, is giving the ruling Congress party a tough time. Tamil Nadu has Karunanidhi, his sons, his nephews, his grandsons, and so on, all hoping to stay relevant in a space which is getting a little too crowded for Karunanidhis.

Karnataka has BS Yeddyurappa, the enfant terrible of the BJP. His son BY Raghavendra is a member of the Lok Sabha from Shimoga. The state also has the Deve Gowda clan.

Maharasthra has too many political clans for me to start listing them here (that probably needs a separate piece in itself). But the latest political scion to join the bandwagon is Aditya Thackeray, son of Uddhav Thackeray and the grandson of Bal Thackeray. Then we have the Pawars, Chavans and Deoras, among others.

This is a random list and is not complete in anyway. But the list remains incomplete without Akhilesh Yadav, the son of Mulayam Singh Yadav, and the current Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.

The phenomenon of political scions is not limited only to the states.

Patrick French, in his book India: A Portrait, carried out a very interesting piece of analysis on Indian members of Parliament. Every Indian MP under the age of 30 was a hereditary MP, i.e. his or her family member had made a career out of politics. More than two-thirds of the MPs under the age of 40 are hereditary.

Twenty seven MPs were what French calls “hyper-hereditary” — i.e. they had several family members who made a career out of politics. The Congress party leads the race here. All the MPs that the party has under the age of 35 are hereditary. Eighty-eight percent of the Congress MPs under the age of 40 are hereditary. Regional parties have a greater proportion of hereditary MPs, in comparison to the national parties.

So what does this tell us? It tells us that the Indian voter loves to elect political scions to positions of power. It tells us why Motilal Nehru’s great great grandson is leading the race to become the next Prime Minister of India. It tells us why Akhilesh Yadav, the son of Mulayam Singh Yadav, was elected CM of Uttar Pradesh.

But that’s just one part of it. It also tells us that politicians, like businessmen, want their sons and daughters to take over from them. A businessman, after having built a good business which throws up a lot of money, wants his progeny to manage it. The same seems to be the case with politicians. Having built a good business model over the years they want their sons and daughters to run it.

This leads to a situation widely prevalent in the Hindi film industry where it’s difficult for an outsider to make it big as a hero. Most of the current crop of heroes are descendants of people who have had something to do with the Hindi film industry. These “heroes” are jocularly referred to as “babalog”.

But it is difficult to separate cause from effect. The Indian voter likes electing political scions — or at least takes it for granted — and that is why we see more and more babalog entering politics. But at the same time, since babalog  have cornered most of the space in Indian politics, who else does the voter vote for?

It is a chicken and egg question.

Nevertheless, expecting babalog to change things that their parents or uncles or aunts or grandfathers weren’t able to do, is expecting a little too much from them. The case in point is Akhilesh Yadav. He ran the “Umeed ki cycle” campaign during the elections in Uttar Paresh. The campaign was produced by former Hindi film director Arjun Sablok, who directed Bollywood flops like Neal n Nikki and Na Tum Jaano Na Hum.

The voter was taken for a ride thinking that all that had been wrong during the rule of Mayawati, and also during the rule of Mulayam Singh Yadav, would change in the days to come. That was not to be.

The question that one needs to ask here is why political scions enter politics. That should provide us an answer as to why it’s best not to expect any sort of change from babalogs. A political scion enters politics to carry on the family tradition of being in politics. He also understands that at some level he will not have to struggle to make it on his own. Things will be handed out to him on a platter.

In short, he is taking the easy way out, in most cases. And anyone who takes the easy way out to make himself relevant in this world has his own interests on top of the agenda and not of the voters who elected him in the first place. The top interest of a political scion is furthering the cause of the family and the people who support the family.

Hence Akhilesh Yadav is in the process of becoming what his father was and probably still is. To end, let me quote Jo Nesbo again:

"There were those who asserted that sons always became, to some degree or other, disguised variants of their fathers, that the experience of breaking out was never more than an illusion; you returned; the gravity of blood was not only stronger than your willpower, it was your willpower."

Vivek Kaul is a writer and can be reached at vivek.kaul@gmail.com

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