Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Why do we have dynastic politics?

This piece is in response to my friend Sachin's comment at I thought responding to the comment on dynastic politics required a separate post and here it is.

I entirely agree with Sachin on the hereditary nature in different spheres in our public life. Opportunities are hard to come by in politics, businesses etc for those not connected to the mighty with power and pelf. This is partly because of the weak systems in place. For instance: Referring to the movies part, do we see any professional film-making, acting schools which are serious about churning out true professionals who can cater to the industry? No. So we have the the powerful folks within the film industry planning for their kith and kin and 'launching' them onto the unsuspecting audience. Ditto in politics. Do we see good liberal arts courses in Indian universities that actually turn out future assemblymen or parliamentarians? No again. So we have the powerful leaders planning the careers of their kin into 'public service'. In both these fields, dynasties came in because of weak or non-existent institutions. And India is not the only country that has democracy of the dynasties, for the dynasties and by the dynasties. Except in the west and few other countries, where there are sound institutions, the story remains the same in most of the third world. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, North Korea, Iraq, Iran are but few examples.

Strong political systems not just identify and cultivate worthy candidates for politics but also have vibrant inner-party democracy. During the emergency, the extraordinary political situation has been so successfully met by these very 'freshmen' unconnected to any dynasties who rallied behind Jayaprakash Narayan. All these were students from universities, mostly with a prevailing socialist mindset. That was true leadership that came from grassroots and they routed out Indira Gandhi and her younger son in the election soon after the emergency. It is just that India did not consistently throw out this kind of genuine leadership. Even if some brave soul genuinely bent on public service makes his initial mark by luck or opportunity, lack of inner-party democracy acts as a glass-ceiling. The advantage continues to rest with dynasties which has well-established cliques within parties.

And how do these cliques form? To start with, a guy develops his coterie, cultivates a constituency of voters (vote-bank, on caste, religious lines) studiously and then a plethora of lobbyists, contractors, power brokers, businessmen, party workers, volunteers, fundraisers mushroom around. They develop a well-oiled machinery based on mutual interest whether in power or not. Now the guy suddenly passes away and the whole gang needs a placeholder who can promise continuity. So it would be either the dead guy's son/daughter/son-in-law/daughter-in-law or his wife. The problem here, is not just about nepotism, or dynastic politics, it’s more about the system that mastered electoral politics with corruption, casteism, religious fundamentalism etc. I think this is the crux of all father-son/daughter/wife inheritance ideas, at least in politics.

Suppose if we establish a system, for argument sake, where things like sanctioning petrol pumps, big buck infra projects, or even municipal contracts are not won by some businessman just because he is being recommended for by someone in power and if in fact such exercises are carried on due diligence and utmost transparency, unbiased rules and regulations we can be sure these politicians would not be able to form coteries because they would not be inciting enough. After all, why would any party worker threaten immolation or suicide for some leader’s benefit (like for an MLA ticket or ministry or chiefministership) if that leader cant even get this party worker a quick gas connection or make him a beneficiary of government’s free housing project?

In this idealistic, transparent and non-corrupt system, candidates for elections and after would be forced to discuss their policies, views in healthy debates rather than take the victory, position for granted just because they have the permanent support base they built based on corruption and caste equations.

Hence I think dynastic politics is not an issue in itself but the greater issues are weak political institutions, corruption, lack of good non-political leadership in civil society. Dynastic politics are but a byproduct of these. Let’s not forget the yuvrajs always win an election to come into assemblies/parliament. How easily they get in and what makes them win is the issue, not just the fact that they won.

In the context of the previous post too, I see the central issue as that of lack of inner-party democracy in state congress (that is how YSR got tickets for his own followers all across the state who are now hell-bent to award YSR Jr with chiefministership), corruption (its all too obvious in government spending), rather the institutionalization of corruption. The point of discussion of course is Jagan and chiefministership but Jagan's camp would make do with, say, KVP Ramachandra Rao as CM, if, for argument sake, the 'High command' agrees. As this would serve the purpose of 'continuity' and all the many loyalists would be able continue to mint their money, all this protest abt Jagan be made CM will die down, with Jagan himself being okay. Manmohan for Sonia, maybe KVP for Jagan!


myopinion said...

A news channel sms quiz question in some 2020's before election would be:

Who would be our next CM?
d)All(AP divided into three)

prasad said...

Nice posts raa...
Its really sickening to see/follow the current state of politics,let alone comment on it.
This,for me,looks like a meticulously devised scheme,everything falling in place for Jagan to swear-in as the next CM.
And it is equally ridiculous to see how quickly our media would buy into this drama, so efficiently enacted by one and all
that they would give the oscar winners a run for their money.
At the same time,quite heartening to see such anguish from so many commentators...:)

Amar said...


Man, thats a nice one :)


There is nothing like an independent and investigating media anymore, at least in AP. All those broadcast 'bytes' and serve as tools of propaganda for the different parties.

Even the national media is no wiser. CNN IBN's Suhasini Haider said on live TV "cell phones dont work in rayalaseema!". She went on to say Greyhounds, the elite police force in AP, was founded by YSR whereas the force was raised much before. The ignorance is so baffling we no more expect any analytical news coverage.

Anguish certainly is all over, no escaping it. The drama is played to the hilt by all the camps in AP and Delhi through all tactics.

Barun Mitra said...

Hi, Interesting post about dynasties in politics and elsewhere. The children following the footsteps of their parent's profession is quite common in almost all spheres of life in India, (one name that used to describe this practice is 'caste'!).
More seriously, it is not that children have an edge, it is that sooner than later, the progeny have to demonstrate their own capabilities. For instance, Rajiv Gandhi, had he lived through the 1991 general election, the Congress may have got an even fewer seats in that election. Or if Chiranjeevi had allied with either the Congress or TDP in AP, the result of that election may have been quite different. As it is, YSR lost about 40 seats in 2009, compared to 2004. So Congress will have to assess will loyalty to YSR bring them political dividends in the future, or will Jagan earn his political stripes.
Secondly, inner party democracy is likely to emerge as political leaders begin to realise the limitations of their party system. As parties become competitive, with every election throwing up a fair amount of uncertainty.
You may like to explore some of our initiatives at and and

sri said...

Excellent work buddy, good thing about this post is, one will visualise the vicious circle formed by our ministers, businessmen, contractors for mutual benefit.... while reading this post. As you say, every one is involved in a bigger way but a common man like me gets to know about a part and we try to spin our heads on that part not the whole picture.

I appreciate your way of looking at things and interpreting it buddy.

Keep it up :-)
Sachin Kumar.

Amar said...

Hi Barun Mitra,

Nice to meet u here. I get ur point. However, i do feel the 'earning of political stripes' is all about consolidating the vote bank nurtured by the yuvraj's elders. This happens only retrogade politics which do not revolve around policy-making for public but deal-making within factions and casts.

Regarding inner-party democarcy, I think things are only getting worse. The more the groups that are emerging within parties, the lesser authoritative the leader would be and the least the chance of any meaningful change in the way the parties conduct. All these imply as status quo - a bad news in itself.

I checked some of the links u mentioned here. Its thrilling and stimulating to see the collaborations. Hope to see more of ur incisive comments around :)

Amar said...

Thanks ra Sachin. Glad that u liked this. I hope i cud make my point clearly on why i think dynastic politics are but symptom of a larger malaise.