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OPINION | Chautalas, Thackerays and Counting: ‘Son’ Rise in Assembly Elections Shows Dynasty Politics is Here to Stay

Political families in India ensure their hegemony remains intact by deterring the emergence of other leaders and protecting their own kin.

Kalyani Shankar |

Updated:October 28, 2019, 11:58 AM IST
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OPINION | Chautalas, Thackerays and Counting: ‘Son’ Rise in Assembly Elections Shows Dynasty Politics is Here to Stay
Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray arrives at Sen Bhavan in Mumbai, Thursday, October 24, 2019. (PTI Photo/Mitesh Bhuvad)

It is strange that political dynasties have survived in Indian democracy since independence despite all odds. Not only the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty but many other smaller and bigger dynastic families in different states have mushroomed over the past seven decades or more, and will continue to do so.

Even in the recent Haryana and Maharashtra Assembly polls, people voted for the dynasts. This, despite a sustained campaign by the ruling BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi against dynastic politics, particularly targeting the Gandhi family. Interestingly, the BJP has emerged as the largest dynastic favouring party in Maharashtra with as many as 16 MLAs from political families entering the Assembly. This includes chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, Radhakrishna Vickhe Patil, Vaibhav Pichad and Samir Meghe.

A quick glance at Haryana’s political history shows dynasties from several parties – both big and small – have won here with an excellent strike rate. Why do people elect them? First of all, many of them come from well-known political families who control their fiefdoms. While they start with an advantage, other candidates have to struggle for recognition.

Secondly, having come from political backgrounds, these candidates get the basic grounding at home and understand the nuisances of politics right from childhood. The dynasty not only gives them name recognition but also some political experience, networking and better access to resources when running for elections.

Thirdly, the affluent present generation political families send their children abroad to study and they enter politics with a good educational background.

Fourthly, given their family name, no one questions their right to start at a higher position in the party hierarchy. Some like the Gandhi family children or Aaditya Thackeray do not have to go through the mill because they enter from the top. Others like Dushyant Chautala succeed even by launching a new outfit.

Above all, the political families ensure that their hegemony remains intact by deterring the emergence of other leaders and protecting their own kin.

Take the case of Haryana, which has been a hot bed for dynasty politics for decades. The Chautalas, Bishnois and Hoodas are in the fray in every election and winning and losing is all a part of their game. Some like Bhavya Bishnoi, Arjun Singh Chautala, Deepender Hooda, Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Shruti Choudury were defeated in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. This Assembly election verdict has given an indication that the 2019 Lok Sabha results were perhaps just an aberration.

Former chief minister Bhupinder Hooda, who lost the polls just five months ago, has emerged as the man of the match in assembly elections. The credit for Congress having doubled its numbers goes entirely to him. Hooda was fighting against all odds as the Congress sidelined him two years ago owing to corruption cases, and also because of an internal fight in the state unit. People have shown that the old warhorse like him cannot be ignored for long.

Interestingly, the third and fourth generation of its founder Chaudhury Devi survived by winning their respective seats. Those who won the elections this time include Abhay Singh, Naina Chautala. Dushyant Chautala, the great grandson of Devi Lal who led the newly formed JJP won from Uchana Kalan in Jind district. His estranged uncle Abhay Chautala retained Ellenabad seat. Dushyant’s mother Naina Chautala won from Badhra on JJP ticket. The BJP fielded Devi Lal’s grandson Aditya Devi Lal but lost the seat to Congress’ Amit Sihag.

JJP chief Dushyant Chautala has emerged kingmaker this time with his party’s 10 seats and has decided to support the BJP to form the government. He is likely to get the post of deputy chief minister.

Maharashtra, which has fielded many dynasts, also saw several of them win in the Assembly polls. The Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar single-handedly campaigned for his party and sought votes for one last time and the voters obliged. Pawar, who has never lost an election since 1976, was able to do this against all odds. Several of his trusted aides deserted him just before the Assembly polls. He was also facing corruption cases foisted on him just before the polls. His health was not very good and age was against him. Of the 15 dynasts Pawar fielded, 10 won the elections, including his nephew Ajit Pawar.

Another interesting contest came from the Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray’s clan. His grandson Aaditya, the first ever Thackeray to contest polls, won the Worli seat by a huge margin. This is significant at a time when Thackerays have been accused of being a ringmaster without entering the ring. Aaditya is hoping to become the deputy chief minister.

The Congress political dynasties also did well. Two former chief ministers – Prithviraj Chavan and Ashok Chavan – made a comeback.

There is indeed enough political space for the dynasts to survive along with others in the Indian democracy, which is indeed a great paradox. Going by this trend, the dynasts are here to stay.

(The author is a political analyst. Views are personal)

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