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Dynasty politics: While trying to make India Congress-mukt, is BJP turning into GOP?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call to make India Congress-mukt wasn't just campaign rhetoric. He was presenting the electorate with an alternative. What was it? Modi was offering the voters a different set of ideas than the one to which they have been accustomed for 55 of 70 years since Independence.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Broadly speaking, the BJP proposed the beginning of new politics rooted firmly in an ideology. You could agree or disagree with it. But this was a departure from Congress's 'big-tent' policy of running with the hare and hunting with the hound.

For the better part of its domination over Indian polity, the Congress saw India as a conglomerate of pressure points and aimed to satisfy each cluster in its own language. While that made for a "secular" ideology, it also meant that the stronger pressure group would always hold sway over the looser or weaker one. The party presided over riots and still claimed to be "secular". It pandered to minority sentiments and yet sided with the majority when profitable. It opened the economy and still boxed itself into a socialist corner. In short, the Congress could effortlessly flip between the sheep and wolf's clothing. The only thing constant about Congress was The Family on top and its brand of dynastic politics.

During the brief interventions in history where there wasn't a Gandhi to rally around, the Congress became splintered and faced extinction. Therefore, dynastic politics became the raison d'etre of the Congress power structure. In the Gandhi fiefdom, a Scindia was always succeeded by a Scindia, a Gogoi handed over his capital to another Gogoi and Pilot Jr replaced the senior Pilot. The talented were shown the door. Just ask Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Apart from many other things, it is this that the BJP proposed to replace. The message was powerful. In 2014, the party had Modi — a subaltern identity from a forgotten caste who sold tea for a living — as the prime ministerial candidate. While Congress was still rooted in dynasticism, the BJP offered meritocracy as an alternative and captured the imagination of the electorate.

However, as the BJP inches closer to its stated goal of eradicating the Gandhi-led Congress, it seems as if the Lotus is metamorphosing into the Hand.

The following of the dynastic principle is the most blatant example. This is a model conceived by the Congress and now zealously copied by India's many regional outfits where ideological mooring has been sacrificed at the altar of nepotism.

It is hard to accept the justification proffered by BJP spokespersons who have sought to differentiate between the dynasticism of Congress and the saffron unit. There may not be a dynast on top, yet, but the candidates' list in for both Uttarakhand and UP Assembly polls show BJP has started the long march for one. In both cases, this policy has given rise to resentment and barely concealed dissent.

The prime minister had warned against nepotism during his BJP national executive address this year. "Please don't put pressure for securing tickets for your family members, whether a brother, a sister or children. Party will do justice to all. We have to work unitedly to win all the five states," he was quoted as saying by News18.

Has the party ignored Modi's advice? In Uttar Pradesh, where BJP has so far announced nominees for 304 out of 403 seats, the list includes a generous splattering of dynasts and family members. According to the News18 report, while Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh's son Pankaj who replaced Noida's sitting MLA Vimla Batham is the most high-profile name in fray, there is Gopal Tandon, son of BJP veteran Lalji Tandon; Sunil Dutt Dwivedi, son of Brahm Dutt Dwivedi; Prateek Sharan Singh, son of Brij Bhusan Sharan Singh; Nilima Katiyar, daughter of Prem Lata Katiyar; Sandeep Singh, grandson of former chief minister Kalyan Singh and Mriganka Singh, daughter of Kairana MP Hukum Singh.

Inevitably, this has resulted in a backlash. Party functionary Sanjay Bali who had hoped for a ticket has resigned from his post accusing BJP of going the Congress way and political greenhorn Mriganka's ascension has caused the exit of a senior BJP leader.

In Uttarakhand, it is the BJP that is following the principles of dynasticism instead of the Congress. According to The Times of India, as soon as Yashpal Arya, the former Cabinet minister, and his son Sanjeev joined the BJP, they were 'rewarded' with tickets. There were tickets for former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna’s son Saurabh, former chief minister BC Khanduri’s daughter Ritu. State spokesperson Munna Singh Chauhan and his wife Madhu had also been included in the list of nominees along with Narayan Singh Rana, who is related to Rajnath Singh.

By refusing to dismantle loss-making PSUs and keeping open a steady supply of taxpayer funds to sustain failed behemoths like Air India or Hindustan Photo Films, Modi has shown that he, too, is not untouched by Congressism. But the adoption of pariwar-vaad as a policy is the most damning deviation that completely robs BJP of the moral right to target other parties for pursuing dynasty politics.

It should shut up for good.


Updated Date: Jan 24, 2017 13:58 PM

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