Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bad heir days for India

Like hair they occupy pride of place at the top of the body politick. Like bad hair on a bad hair day, heirs to political dynasties are the first thing one sees when looking at the whole picture of India. In a land with overflowing rivers, mountains and plains, in a land peopled by great minds in science and engineering, the arts and culture, in an ancient land which should have had an ancient wisdom coming down the ages, a bad heir would be the last thing one would expect. But then you see the grinding poverty and poor infrastructure, simple evidence of a people living in the dark ages and you know the bad heirs who have inherited this land are not good for us.

And yet there they are, strutting their stuff while those who apply the election glue to the seat of their pants bow and scrape before them. Look anywhere and you see them, political families taking the place of the royal families that once owned the land and the people who lived on the land. Here in Goa we have the Ranes, the Alemaos, the Madkaikars, the Dhavlikars, the Monserrates and many more.

The Nehru-Gandhi family has been ruling the roost since Motilal Nehru in the late 19th century and still batting at the crease more than 200 years later. Look down South and you have the Karunanidhi clan which even held up the formation of the current cabinet in the UPA-2 government because Karuna wanted posts for his children and members of his extended family.

Nowhere in the world is the heir affliction as pronounced as it is in India. You have the Meira Kumars, the Deoras, the Yadavs, the Scindias, Pawars, Gowdas, Pilots, Dutts, Thackerays. So many sons and daughters have taken over chief minister status from their fathers. Naveen Patnaik succeeded Biju Patnaik, Omar Abdullah succeeded his father Farookh who succeeded his father Sheikh Abdullah; there’s Mehbooba Mufti and many more.

Political dynasties are scattered all over the country and this is not a good development in a modern democracy. When the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 removed the rule of lineal primogeniture where the eldest male member of the eldest line was successor to the throne, in politics crown princes and princesses are installed on the throne by their parents who ruled before.

It’s their right and those before them have made politics their family business. As in royalty their subjects make certain transfer of kingship through kinship is smooth. The more money they make the more certain the fact that their children will inherit the throne. The families also have such a hold on the parties they represent that the parties willingly put up names of the children for candidature. There is no democracy within the parties. Politics is an extremely profitable business. The patronage between the political parties and the political dynasties favour each other at the cost of the common man. Bad heir days are clearly dangerous for India.

Our only hope is that there will be increasing revolt in the ranks of party cadres never mind that it is greed that makes them fight against the heirs taking a larger slice of the pie. Now Rajendra Shekhawat son of Mrs Pratibha Patil, President of India, has been put up for candidature by the Congress Party in the fast approaching Maharashtra elections. The Congress MLA Sunil Deshmukh who has been winning that seat for the last ten years, has been told to shove off and give the seat to “Raosaheb”.

So what’s the solution? As with chronically bad hair, the best thing to do is to condition the heirs, trim them to size, keep a careful eye on them, smooth them, stroke them, discipline them and if the bad heirs persist, cut them, sweep them into a dustpan and dump them in the dustbin of history.

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