Every ‘young’ minister in new-look UPA govt is a dynast

Vivek Kaul
“It is a combination of youth and experience,” said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after reshuffling his ministers yesterday. The reshuffle saw 17 new faces become ministers.
The average age of the 17 new ministers is 52.4 years, with the youngest Sachin Pilot having turned 35 in September this year, and the oldest Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury will turn 75 in early January next year. Also Pilot is the only minister who is less than 40 years of age.
So the question is where is the youth that Manmohan Singh was talking about? Unless of course Dr Singh was referring to the old Bob Dylan number that went somewhat like this.
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young
The bigger question though is does the Congress have young leaders who are not hereditary leaders i.e. they are in politics because their fathers and grandfathers were also in politics.
Sachin Pilot is the son of Rajesh Pilot who was a formidable Congress leader till he died in a car crash. He also happens to the son-in-law of Dr Farooq Abdullah, the Jammu and Kashmir strongman. His brother in law Omar is the current chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir.
The other so called young gun to be inducted as a minister is Jyotiraditya Scindia. He will turn 42 on January 1, 2013. He comes from a royal family and his grandmother Vijayaraje Scindia and father Madhavrao Scindia were both career politicians.
Patrick French in his book India: A Portrait released in early 2011 carried out a very interesting piece of research. As he pointed out “Every MP in the Lok Sabha under the age of 30 had in effect inherited a seat, and more than two-thirds of the 66 MPs aged 40 or under were hereditary MPs… Of the 38 youngest MPs, 33 had arrived with the help of mummy-daddy. Of the remaining five, one was Meenakshi Natarajan, the biochem graduate who had been hand-picked by Rahul, three appeared to be self-made politicians who had made it up the ranks of the BJP, BSP and CPI(M) respectively, and the fifth was a Lucknow University mafioso who had been taken on board by Mayawati: he was a “history-sheeter”—meaning numerous criminal chargesheets had been laid against him—who had been involved in shootouts and charged four times under the Gangsters Act.”
Of course the babalog also tend to start earlier than the ones who make it on their own. As French writes “In addition, this new wave of Indian lawmakers would have a decade’s advantage in politics over their peers, since the average MP who had benefited from family politics was almost 10 years younger than those who had arrived with ‘No Significant Family Background’… The average age of an MP with no significant family background was 58; for a hereditary MP it was 48.”
This trend is even more extreme in the Congress Party. “In the Congress, the situation was yet more extreme: every Congress MP under the age of 35 was a hereditary MP,” writes French.
So the point is that the Congress Party in particular and the Indian Parliament in general doesn’t have many young leaders who have made it on their own.
And if some recent biographies of Rahul Gandhi and some not recent ones of Sonia Gandhi are to be believed, this is the reason Rahul has stayed away from the government. He is trying to build internal democracy within the Congress party, so that a new genuine crop of younger leaders comes up.
As French writes quoting Rahul Gandhi “There are three-four ways of entering politics,” he said frankly to a gathering of students in Madhya Pradesh. “First, if one has money and power. Second, through family connections. I am an example of that. Third, if one knows somebody in politics. And fourth, by working hard for the people.” Unlike many of the other young hereditary MPs, he did not pretend otherwise. “Main apne pita, nani aur pardada ke bina us jagah par nahin pahunch sakta tha jahan main aaj hoon(Without my father, grandmother and great-grandfather, I could never have been in the place that I am now.)” This can be aptly titled the Rahul Gandhi syndrome.
Rahul Gandhi wants to set this right within the Congress and is thus trying to build an internal democratic structure within the Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India. As Aarthi Ramachandran writes in Decoding Rahul Gandhi “The Youth Congress decided it was ready to hold its first internal elections in mid-2008. The process was handled by an independent NGO, Foundation for Advanced Management of Elections (FAME), started by former election commissioners K J Rao, James Lyndogh N Gopalswami and T S Krishnamurthy.”
The first such election was held in Punjab. And what was the result? “Not everything went according to plan. Though Rahul himself camped in Amritsar to make sure the election lived up to the expectations of being the first free and fair one, the old Congress reared its head through the process. Ravneet Singh ‘Bittu’, the grandson of former Congress Chief minister, Beant Singh, became the first elected Punjab Youth Congress president. He had the backing of the former chief minister of Punjab, Captain Amrinder Singh. This raised questions about whether the elections had indeed ushered in internal democracy,” writes Ramachandran. Bittu when he was elected was 33.
This is a worrying trend. And even plays out in the context of elected women MPs in the Congress Party. As French writes “The Congress presently had 208 MPs, of whom 23 were women. This was the same as average, 11 per cent. So far so low; now comes the difference: 19 out of the 23 Congress women MPs were hereditary (and of these, four were hyperhereditary). This left only four Congress women MPs who appeared to have reached Parliament on their own merit: Meenakshi Natarajan, Annu Tandon, and two other stalwarts. Who were they? Dr Girija Vyas, the president of the National Commission for Women, and Chandresh Kumari Katoch, who turned out to be hereditary by another measure, being the daughter of Hanwant Singh, the maharaja of Jodhpur.”
Entry into politics in India has become like a family owned business where the sons(and now daughters) are destined to takeover irrespective of the fact whether they have the aptitude for the job or not. French puts it best when he says “If the trend continued, it was possible that most members of the Indian Parliament would be there by heredity alone, and the nation would be back to where it had started before the freedom struggle, with rule by a hereditary monarch and assorted Indian princelings.”
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on October 29,2012. http://www.firstpost.com/politics/every-young-minister-in-new-look-upa-govt-is-a-dynast-506497.html#disqus_thread
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He can be reached at [email protected])

Babalog prophecy: Why Akhilesh won’t ever transcend Mulayam

Vivek Kaul

Scandinavian crime writers have been fairly popular over the last few years. The likes of Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson have taken the world by storm. The latest Scandinavian sensation is Jo Nesbo, who has been writing a series of novels featuring a very “disturbed” Oslo police detective, Inspector Harry Hole.
Hole has a drinking problem. He has done drugs at various points of time. And the love of his life has left him and disappeared after she gets embroiled in one of the cases that Hole is investigating. On top of this Hole shares a rather philosophical relationship with his father who is dying of cancer. Nesbo writes the following paragraph in the context of the relationship that Hole shares with his father in a novel titled The Leopard:
There were those who asserted that sons always became, to some degree or other, disguised variants of their fathers, that the experience of breaking out was never more than an illusion; you returned; the gravity of blood was not only stronger than your willpower, it was your willpower.

Nowhere is this truer than in the context of the Indian political scenario, when the sons and daughters take over the mantel of their politician parents. India is full of political scions who have taken over, or are taking over, or will take over from where their parents left or are likely to leave.
Let me try and make a random list of politicians who fulfill this criterion, starting from Jammu Kashmir in the north and working my way down south to Tamil Nadu.
Omar Abdullah, the current chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir is the son of Dr Farooq Abdullah and grandson of Sheikh Abdullah, both career politicians.
Himachal Pradesh is ruled by Prem Kumar Dhumal whose son Anurag Thakur is a member of the Lok Sabha from Hamirpur and also a joint-secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India(BCCI).
The chief minister of Punjab is Prakash Singh Badal. His son Sukhbir Singh Badal is the deputy chief minister and the president of the Shiromani Akali Dal.
Sheila Dikshit is the chief minister of Delhi. Her son Sandeep Dikshiit is the member of Lok Sabha from the East Delhi constituency.
Orissa or Odisha as it is now known as is ruled by Naveen Patnaik son of the late Biju Patnaik.
Andhra Pradesh has scions of NT Rama Rao battling for political space. Jaganmohan Reddy the son of the late Y Rajshekar Reddy is giving the ruling Congress party a tough time.
Tamil Nadu has the Karunanidhi, his sons, his nephews, his grandsons, and so on, all hoping to stay relevant in a space which is getting a little too crowded for Karunanidhis.
Karnatka has BS Yeddyurappa the enfant terrible of the BJP. His son B. Y. Raghavendra is a member of the Lok Sabha from Shimoga. The state also has the Deve Gowda clan.
Maharasthra has too many political clans for me to start listing them here (that probably needs a separate piece in itself). But the latest political scion to join the bandwagon is Aditya Thackeray, son of Uddhav Thackeray and the grandson of Bal Thackeray.
This is a random list and is not complete in anyway. But it list remains incomplete without Akhilesh Yadav, the son of Mulayam Singh Yadav, and the current chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.
The phenomenon of political scions is not limited only to the states.
Patrick French in his book India: A Portrait carried out a very interesting piece of analysis on the Indian members of Parliament. Every Indian MP under the age of 30 was a hereditary MP i.e. his or her family member had made a career out of politics. More than two-thirds of the MPs under the age of 40 are hereditary.
Twenty seven MPs were what French calls “hyper-hereditary” i.e. they had several family members who made a career out of politics. The Congress party leads the race here. All the MPs that the party has under the age of 35 are hereditary. 88% of the Congress MPs under the age of 40 are hereditary. Regional parties have a greater proportion of hereditary MPs, in comparison to the national parties.
So what does this tell us? It tells us that the Indian voter loves to elect political scions into positions of power. It tells us why Motilal Nehru’s great great grandson is leading the race to become the next Prime Minister of India. It tells us why Akhilesh Yadav, the son of Mulayam Singh Yadav, was elected the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.
But that’s just one part of it. It also tells us that politicians like businessmen want their sons and daughters to take over from them. A businessman after having built a good business which throws up a lot of money wants his progeny to manage it. The same seems to be the case with the politicians. Having built a good business model over the years they want their sons and daughters to run it.
This leads to a situation widely prevalent in the Hindi film industry where it’s difficult for an outsider to make it big as a hero. Most of the current crop of heroes are descendants of people who have had something to do with the Hindi film industry. These “heroes” are jocularly referred to as “baba log”.
But it is difficult to separate cause from effect. The Indian voter likes electing political scions and that is why we see more and more baba log entering politics. But at the same time since baba log have cornered most of the space in Indian politics, who else does the voter vote for?
It is a chicken an egg question.
Nevertheless, expecting baba log to change things that their parents or uncles or aunts or grandfathers weren’t able to do, is expecting a little too much from them. The case in point is Akhilesh Yadav. He ran the “umeed ki cycle” campaign during the elections in Uttar Paresh. The campaign was produced by former Hindi film director Arjun Sablok, who directed flops like Neal n Nikki and Na Tum Jaano Na Hum.
The voter was taken for a ride thinking that all that had been wrong during the rule of Mayawati, and also during the rule of Mulayam Singh Yadav, would change in the days to come. That was not to be.
The question that one needs to ask here is why political scions enter politics. That should provide us an answer to why it’s best not to expect any sort of change from baba logs. A political scion enters politics to carry on the family tradition of being in politics. He also understands that at some level he will not have to struggle to make it on his own. Things will be handed out to him on a platter. In short he is taking the easy way out, in most cases. And anyone who takes the easy way out to make himself relevant in this world has his own interests on the top of the agenda and not of the voters who elected him in the first place. The top interest of a political scion is furthering the cause of the family and the people who support the family.
Hence Akhilesh Yadav is in the process of becoming what his father was and probably still is. To end, let me quote Jo Nesbo again:
There were those who asserted that sons always became, to some degree or other, disguised variants of their fathers, that the experience of breaking out was never more than an illusion; you returned; the gravity of blood was not only stronger than your willpower, it was your willpower
The bigger sucker saved Buffett. But Mallya may not have any such luck
(The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on July 5,2012. http://www.firstpost.com/politics/babalog-prophecy-why-akhilesh-wont-ever-transcend-mulayam-368232.htmll)
(Vivek Kaul is a writer and can be reached at [email protected])