Among the political parties the Congress is most maligned for being a dynastic organization. But now almost all political parties have been affected by this menace except the Left parties. Look at Maharashtra: Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s recent expansion of his Council of Ministers exemplifies how deep-rooted dynastic politics is in the country. As many as 19 of the 43 ministers hail from political families, cutting across the three coalition partners in Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi. From Uddhav’s son Aaditya Thackeray getting a cabinet berth to Ajit Pawar, nephew of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, dynasts are everywhere one looks. In fact, even those who are unhappy about not getting a ministerial berth—like Bhor Congress MLA Sangram Thopte, son of former chief minister Anantrao Thopte, whose supporters attacked the party office in Pune—are also dynasts.

Dynasties are a bane in the long run as they restrict representation and merit in the political firmament. This, in turn, leads to a lack of capable leaders, affecting governance negatively. Dynastic politics can also be a source of instability in coalition setups. Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna confirmed discontent among the party ranks because of exclusion of ‘original’ Shiv Sainiks from the ministerial expansion – but Sena MP Sanjay Raut is the executive editor of Saamna and he is reportedly upset over non-inclusion of his Vikhroti MLA Sunil Raut in the state cabinet.

All of this is a byproduct of the deep centralization of Indian politics, where an undemocratic sense of entitlement creeps in over time. Over concentration of power, unfortunately, affects all political parties, including BJP. The latter today has a leadership cult which is limiting its ability to nimbly respond to the issues, as those around the leader may be parroting what they think the boss wants to hear. A meritocratic and decentralized politics will serve India’s development so much better.

The worst affected by dynastic politics is the Congress party. Right from Jawaharlal Nehru to Rajiv Gandhi the dynasty ruled India as well as controlled the party. In spite of leadership quality, Indira Gandhi was worst dynastic. First she promoted her second son Sanjay Gandhi but, unfortunately, he died in a place crash. Then she brought Rajiv Gandhi who too was assassinated when the Congress was out of power. Then came Sonia Gandhi. Even though she chose Dr. Manmohan Singh to be Prime Minister, she was the power behind the throne. The dynastic approach continued even when the Congress was out of power; she projected Rahul Gandhi but he virtually failed. The circumstances forced her to take up the reign of the party and become the Congress president again.

While the dynastic rule continued unabated, the party deteriorated day by day. The growth of natural leadership was stifled and the result was that there was no tall leader left to lead the party. Many up and coming leaders left the party for better prospects. The net result was that the party was reduced to lowest ever in Parliament and could not claim to get the position of the Leader of Opposition. Though the Congress has now shown some signs of revival by winning election in few states, it has a long way to go. In some states like Maharashtra, the Congress has to become part of a coalition. With dynasty appears to be dying, it may take long time for growth of natural leaders.

Congress being the oldest party, has impact on other parties too. Almost every party, except the Left parties, has become dynasty based. Mulayam Singh Yadav’s party, Lalu Prasad’s organization, the Akali Party and many smaller parties have become dynasty oriented. This means stifling of natural leadership. There is also bitter infighting in these parties. These trends are not good for democracy.

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