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Is India sliding into a hereditary monarchy?

Soutik Biswas | 09:18 UK time, Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi posters

Is India sliding into a pseudo monarchy of sorts? In his splendid new book, India: A Portrait, historian Patrick French dredges up some startling data on the stranglehold of family and lineage on Indian politics.


The research finds that though less than a third of India's parliamentarians had a hereditary connection, things get worse with the younger MPs. Consider this:

  • Every MP in the Lok Sabha or the lower house of the Indian parliament under the age of 30 had inherited a seat.
  • More than two thirds of the 66 MPs aged 40 or under are hereditary MPs.
  • Every Congress MP under the age of 35 was a hereditary MP.
  • Nearly 70% of the women MPs have family connections.

Interestingly, for MPs over 50, the proportion with a father or relative in politics was a rather modest 17.9%. But when you looked at those aged 50 or under, this increased by more than two and a half times to nearly half, or 47.2%.

Also most of the younger hereditary MPs - and ministers - have not made a mark and sometimes have been shockingly conservative in their actions. A young MP from feudal Haryana, for example, was seen to be cosying up to extra-constitutional village councils in the state which were punishing couples for marrying outside their caste and clan.

"If the trend continued," concludes French, "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." He also worries the next Lok Sabha will be a "house of dynasts".

Most agree that growing nepotistic and lineage-based power in the world's largest democracy is a matter of concern. "The idea of India," political scientist Mahesh Rangarajan told me, "is rent apart by these two contradictory impulses."

But nepotism is a part of India life; and politics mirrors society. Power, wealth, land and status have hinged to a large extent on who your parents were, what they owned and where they stood in society. Most Indian businesses continue to be owned and run by families though the new economy is throwing up more first generation entrepreneurs. Bollywood, India's thriving film industry, is dominated by sons and daughters of famous actors and producers. Three members of one family - Nehru-Gandhi - have held the post of prime minister. If the Congress party wins the next elections and PM Manmohan Singh steps down, there is a likelihood of the dynast Rahul Gandhi becoming India's next prime minister. (It is no surprise that 37% of the MPs - 78 of 208 - in Congress are hereditary compared to only 19% hereditary MPs - 22 of the 116 - in the main opposition BJP.)

Despite French's troubling data, all may not be lost. "Please remember," Dr Rangarajan told me, "the MPs have lineage as a huge plus, but the posts are not hereditary." In other words, if they fail to deliver, they will be voted out of power. Merit triumphed over dynasty in the recent elections in dirt-poor Bihar. So though lineage remains a key factor in politics, remind analysts, it can only give a headstart, and nothing more. Thank democracy for that.

Comments

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  • 1. At 10:22am on 18 Jan 2011, Ashok Kumar wrote:

    Nothing short of a Military takeover will change this system

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  • 2. At 11:03am on 18 Jan 2011, S Ramachandran wrote:

    This type of Democracy brings no results. The family rule is worse than a dictator rule. Will ever Indian's Change and vote in the name of Development (meaningful) instead of Religion,caste etc is a million dollar question.

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  • 3. At 11:27am on 18 Jan 2011, selvara wrote:

    I think it is upto the people to decide who should represent them in the parliament. I believe in the election commission of India and I believe in the democratic process, so bring them on and I got the choose them. I think there is no point in blaming the system.
    The problem is our tradition. We always talk about family and community values and never about an individuals. SO may be it is time that new generation of people start looking at law makers as individuals rather than party and family stings.

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  • 4. At 12:18pm on 18 Jan 2011, Freedom wrote:

    India has the biggest democracy in the world.. It is true.
    India has a nepotism practice... it is true.
    Indian political leaders are supported by indian capitalist.. It is true.
    Indian politics has become a big business. And the business supporting have been supporting the thoses political families to whom they have long trusted friendship. they both work for their mutual intersts.

    Why new politicans are not coming on indian political atmosphere?
    Simple is the answer.. New politicans have to try hard to get the confidence of capitalist. Otherwise they can not finance their election compaign.

    As long as our political leaders work for business class of country the political monarchy will remain intact.


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  • 5. At 12:46pm on 18 Jan 2011, a_ban22 wrote:

    I happened to watch a popular TV programme the other day where a panel discussion was being held with Patrick French as a participant. On trying to analyse the cause of this phenomenon, two interesting ideas came out,
    1) Politicians are no longer funded by businessmen, mostly they are businessmen themselves. Naturally some sort of family hierarchy takes over.
    2) Notwithstanding the so called economic powers attributed to the burgeoning middle class, the vast majority of the people continue to remain outside the benefit cycle and are desperately poor. Empowerment becomes that much more difficult for these millions.

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  • 6. At 12:58pm on 18 Jan 2011, acenavigator wrote:

    You have now fiefdoms. The country as a whole is ruled by the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty. Whereas most of the states (federal structures) are ruled by dynasties swearing allegiance to the dynasty ruling at the center. Exact replica of the ruling structure which was there in bygone era has been exhumed by the people. The only difference is most of the Emperors in the past did something for the welfare of the people. Today, there is always a coterie surrounding the ruling people, and the only thing they are expert in is plundering people and stacking the currency abroad. You hardly find anyone doing good to the people or the land. If they are doing something it might be they are paying penance to the plundering.

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  • 7. At 1:31pm on 18 Jan 2011, Desiderius Erasmus wrote:

    To be fair it should be noted that there are 'political' families in the west and that some might question how they become candidates for office when others with out the 'connections' don't ... the Benn's go back 3 generations to Viscount Stansgate, similarly the Hogg's go back to Viscount Hailsham .... however they rarely get the top office.

    I think I am right in noting that this same trend occurs in Pakistan, where feudal landowners inherit political power as well - one look at the Bhutto family confirms this.

    Unless you can get some great reforming party into power in India, who will ban 'nepotism' and stop children standing for office in the same state as the parents, then democracy in the sub continent will probably be finished by 2050 - it will be like the last decades of the Roman Republic, merely a sham.

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  • 8. At 1:49pm on 18 Jan 2011, Jay wrote:

    India is still a feudal society. We love to become or behave like a king. There was a NPR/PBS survey by NPR-BBC reporters that show we, general Indians hardly respect people from lower social hierarchy. See the names of IPL cricket tournament- too many teams with "royal", "king" type words.
    Moreover, in India, people join politics for easy and mostly unaccountable money, NOT with any goal to serve people (in general). So it is not surprising that businessmen, industrialists, Supreme court judges and many other "successful" personalities and their children join politics (directly via contesting election or through back-door via Rajya Sabha, upper house of Parliament, nomination).
    This is not limited to politics only. It is all pervasive in almost any profession. Sons of high ranking military officials will have a much higher chance to get plum positions, children of high ranking officials/scientists will get majority of the foreign bound scholarship/fellowship and will climb the research hierarchy fast faster than can be explained by any logical way.
    Unless Indian policy makers address this social scourge, the benefit of India's high economic growth will create more problem for future of that country.

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  • 9. At 2:11pm on 18 Jan 2011, Jay wrote:

    This new generation of Indians are fascinated by money, ONLY money. They have much less concern about the country or its people or morality or justice (unless it has something to do with personal ego or so-called "patriotism" which our politicians always play with to fool people, to divert its attention from real issues).
    This generation is "optimistic" about the country ONLY for monetary reason. They are hardly capable or care to think why consolidation of wealth is at its highest in post-liberalized India, why acceptance of corruption as "part of our lives" is more now than ever before, why naxal or other form of extremist violence is increasing fast despite of such a high economic growth rate. More importantly, majority of us are unable to understand its long term consequences for the country and all of its people (rich and poor alike).
    We need to remember that GDP or per capita income does NOT necessarily mean development for the country and its general people.
    We tend to forget or fail to understand that, "Based on a publication by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Washington, it was concluded that there is no link between economic progress and hunger. Prof Shenggen Fan, director general of IFPRI said, Economic growth is not necessarily associated with poverty reduction [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator].
    "GDP looks good even when things are falling apart. Being the fastest-growing economy in the 2000s was actually a sign of economic distress, not success, for the United Kingdom.
    The economy, as a complex system, cannot logically be indexed by a single figure. In truth, GDP just reflects the perspective of the tax base, because that is how the figures are collected and presumably why the UK Treasury is keen to use it.
    "Force-feeding an economy’s GDP index usually empties its environmental capital first, then its social capital and then whatever cash is left in the bank”: Economic growth: a gross measure (Nature 468, 1041 (23 December 2010). (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v468/n7327/full/4681041c.html).

    This fact is reinforced by the fact that "The only state which comes near Gujarat in terms of the low quality of teachers is Karnataka, another highly prosperous state in India, with about three-fourths of its teachers having studied only up to the higher secondary level" [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]
    Such data also implied that prosperity of few people (that inflate the macro level data like GDP, par capita income) does not mean prosperity for common people (or the country as a whole). The same “prosperous” states like Gujarat and Karnataka also do worse as compared to “least developed” states like Assam in terms of hunger and social well being (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7669152.stm). The overall hunger index for India is worse than many “least developed” countries” like Cuba, Uganda, Sudan, even our arch rival Pakistan (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/7670229.stm).
    Such facts imply that “trickle down” effect of “development” or “prosperity” as many seem to justify, can never be translated to the common people of the country unless strict oversight and transparency in governance is present. This is true for any country, be it USA or India.

    Unless we change our attitude towards our personal social behavior and our policy makers to undertake a sustained campaign against our feudal social behavior, we can never become a developed, more civilized country even if we are able to sustain excellent high rate of economic growth.

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  • 10. At 2:21pm on 18 Jan 2011, Jay wrote:

    If some people dare to work FOR the common people then s/he will face our corrupt judiciary, corrupt law enforcement agencies and almost no political support (unless s/he is ready to extend his mass base for any one party for its electoral gain). One of the glaring example is that of Dr Binayak Sen (http://network.nature.com/groups/natureindia/forum/topics/8709). Anyone who dares to disagree with the state or its movers and shakers are surely "terrorists" or "naxal" or "foreign agent"!
    The good news is, there are still few Indians who dare to come up to his support, ignoring he angry eyes of our political masters. But the dark side is: our democracy (and its institutions) do not work as efficiently as we need in this 21st century.

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  • 11. At 2:25pm on 18 Jan 2011, tsingh wrote:

    India is a failed democracy.
    * Because a democratic system eliminates any form of hierarchy or specific path of entrance emphasizing equality among people.
    * Indian Judicial System, which is almost corrupt and disfunctional. The advocates working in the courts Kith and Kins of the judges of the same court, hence justice is on sale.
    * Indian Parliament has utterly failed to hold corrupt MPs, MLAs, Judges and Civil servents accountable.
    * Unacceptably steep price rise , insensitive administration and rampant corruption in practically every office.
    * Educated Members of the public do not have any trust in the indian electoral system, hence most of the them do not vote, they do not have a option because almost all the political parties are corrupt. The ones who vote, they decide which one is less corrupt. Otherwise also the voting turn over never exceed 55%.
    * The politician use the corruption money to buy poor peoples vote.

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  • 12. At 2:48pm on 18 Jan 2011, TheDoctor wrote:

    Now is this any surprise? Politics in India is a legal way to get illegal money. Oh, so we want to build an interstate, give me a cut. Need a factory? Give me a cut. Oh, it's not built well? Too bad. I need to beat a murder rap, let me terrorize the constituents and get elected to be immune from it.
    If anyone's seen the movie "Brazil", it would look like the model for efficiency compared to the political and bureaucratic system in India. Some say that the system in India "just works". "Just" is not good enough.

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  • 13. At 3:09pm on 18 Jan 2011, Reza wrote:

    Have we forgotten the Bushes or even the Kennedy's in world's most powerful democracy? Is the political elite in democratic Europe any different? See the major shift to the far right as a result of that.
    I am not that concerned about India's democracy as we underestimate the influence of the global Indian!

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  • 14. At 3:46pm on 18 Jan 2011, Jay wrote:

    There is a loud demand from many concerned, educated people to include "none of the above" option in the ballot paper while casting vote.
    If the number of votes in favour of "none of the above" candidate exceed that for any other candidate the vote in that specific constituency should be declared null and void and the seat should remain vacant for the rest of the electoral period or new election should be held and no previous candidate (from the void election) would be allowed to contest that time.
    But as, expected, our political masters (irrespective of party) rejected that highly justified demand (for obvious reasons of course).

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  • 15. At 5:00pm on 18 Jan 2011, Jay wrote:

    The same way, almost all mainstream political parties are reluctant to introduce any meaningful, internal democracy within its own system. It is not that only the corrupt and criminals join politics these days (which is the norm from the very beginning of one's political career, starting from student politics), but also lack of proper democracy within our mainstream, national level political parties deter many able people with leadership quality to join politics. Even if one have the ability, no other Congress leader can become the PM of India, replacing Rahul/Sonia Gandhi, if Congress wins a national election and if those two person want to become PM. It also encourages sycophancy. No sane Congressman will dare to oppose Sonia or Rahul (even when situation demands) if s/he want to remain in the party. The brides and kids from Gandhi family will inherit controlling stake in Congress party (does not matter who is PM or President. The situation is not much different in many other parties (barring BJP and CPM, in general).

    Moreover, our "democracy" (Whatever does that mean) does not allow to evaluate and elect prospective Prime minister (the real constitutional power in India). We are allowed (in best case) to select the party whom we like to govern us, but not the person. Now it depends on the party to select the person whom it like to govern us. That system has a serious flaw, mainly in this era of coalition politics.

    All national level political parties SHOULD declare its Prime-Ministerial candidate before/during election campaign and NO post-election alliance should be allowed. Such practices not only encourages horse trading (sorry real horses, to compare you with Indian politicians) but also distort public opinion, expressed during election. Election commission of India should accommodate such legitimate demands as election laws. Again, no party is interested in any meaningful debate on such issues, within the party of at national level.
    Indian media is also helping such parties for obvious reasons (as nicely described by Sautik, in his blog (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/soutikbiswas/2010/11/indian_medias_credibility_crisis.html).

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  • 16. At 6:28pm on 18 Jan 2011, Jay wrote:

    Probably that's why we see voices of "concerned" citizens against corruption, but hardly anyone likes to take concrete action against. So when I read news like "A group of eminent Indians has said in an open letter that corruption is on the rise and "corroding the fabric" of the nation." ([Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]), I can not help but wondering how sincere these CEOs are! How they follow and/or introduce systemic measures to prevent corruption and lack of transparency in their own company/organization! Many (not all) of the Indian success stories in business sector are not because of innovation/invention or technological competitiveness, but simply because of outsourcing corruption from foreign companies into India, where corporate governance is almost non-existence.
    Will such "eminent" Indians actively support people like Dr Binayak Sen (([Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]), ) or Shankar Guha Niogy ([Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]), ) who actually work, selflessly, for the county and its less-fortunate people and against some of the biggest names in Indian politics and business houses? I do not think so.
    Discussing "corruption" is now a favorite national time-pass (besides cricket) and has huge market value. But in reality, very few people have the ability, morality and courage to do that in a meaningful way, backed by their actions (not mere lip services in front of media arc-light).

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  • 17. At 6:54pm on 18 Jan 2011, Jay wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 18. At 7:05pm on 18 Jan 2011, Jay wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 19. At 8:10pm on 18 Jan 2011, arsenalinsomnia wrote:

    Military takeover? Are you kidding? The military is the one of the worlds biggest industries, What makes you think that the so called prime minister and president of india have any control over it? The same persons and corporations who control the government are the ones who control the military also.

    The military is there for one purpose only and that is to serve the government of the country,Not its people.If you disagree explain how and why armies of some countries(Example: India,Greece,Pakistan,Lots of african nations,China etc etc) always take up arms against the people when a revolution starts against the government.

    face it there is nothing you can do to stop anti social elements,corruption,corporate control,a military against the people,a government which acts against the people.You are on your own, If you can't beat them, Join them.

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  • 20. At 9:28pm on 18 Jan 2011, Shailly wrote:

    We all know that there are a lot of flaws with our democratic set-up, however, most comments here just outright hyperbole. Dynastic politics exists in every political system be it the US, Europe or anywhere else. Politics is all about knowing and being able to work the right connections, and as such strong political families have a leg-up. Just looking at one side of the coin and predicting doom is wrong. The strong resurgence of dalits in UP and minorities else where proves that the system works if there is will and mass support.

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  • 21. At 10:09pm on 18 Jan 2011, Jay wrote:

    The best performing politicians are those who did not come from any dynasty. It was and will remain the case all over the world, including India and US. Check the track records of Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar, AB Vajpayee, BC Roy etc as the head of a government (or Barak Obama and many other American politicians who are known for their work in US). They all worked much better FOR the people (even though some of us may not agree with some of their policies). On the other hand, dynastic politics is a major source of perpetual corruption and inefficiency. Such siblings from any dynasty comes with a heavy (emotional and political) baggage from predecessors.
    It was almost impossible for Rajiv Gandhi to criticize/evaluate many of the policies by his mother and grandfather and change the policy in that issue. The same is and will remain true for Sonia and Rahul Gandhi or any other sibling coming from other dynasty. It is impossible for Rahul or Sonia to acknowledge that Rajiv Gandhi accepted about $2.2 billion as , bribe from KGB, as alleged in a Swiss Newspaper recently [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] Now the congress party also have to evade any direct answer to such questions or make confusing, contradictory remarks and policies to protect such truth to come out in open. It makes harder to take action against corruption, by almost any party having corrupt past. It becomes harder for a "leader" with corrupt dynastic past (mainly for personal and emotional reasons).

    On top of that such dynastic politics reduces the chance to introduce meaningful democracy within the political parties that enables people with true leadership quality to attain the highest position in the party. That's why India will not get its own Obama in near foreseeable future.

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  • 22. At 11:16pm on 18 Jan 2011, Jay wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 23. At 11:49pm on 18 Jan 2011, BrainDamaged wrote:

    And people complained when Ms. Arundhati Roy questioned democratic values of indian democracy.

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  • 24. At 11:56pm on 18 Jan 2011, Rahul Patil wrote:

    What foreign analysts and lead writers dosent seem to understand is youth of India is changing,they are not interested in Nehru-Gandhi dynasty anymore..What matters is vision and progress..The elections in Bihar were were rallied by both Sonia Gandhi and top congress leaders but still public voted for progress and not caste,family etc..Yes lot of new leaders are part of some dynasty but unless they really care for progress,we vote em out!
    The liberals of India are currently falling short of their promises and so I see their reign short-lasting..I pity Manmohan Singh though,such a great leader stuck with a party who dosent listen to him.Nehru-Gandhi dynasty must end as free India is not an imperial nation but a democratic one

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  • 25. At 00:33am on 19 Jan 2011, John Daw wrote:

    The Chinese model does not offer elections but it does offer governance and accountability. Nepotism exists in China but the system provides electricity, water, roads and order. An ordinary Indian wants these things not a Westminster style system that can't deliver.

    Nepotism = Corruption

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  • 26. At 05:09am on 19 Jan 2011, Dr M Seshagiri Rao wrote:

    Hereditary Monarchy would mean people taking their places automatically by virtue of birth. Here, you are quoting cases of progeny who have been voted by common electorate to Office once held by their progenitors. That is not Hereditary. Politics runs in certain families and this article could also have been written about such Families in UK as well. Or even, USA for that matter. Churchill and Bush acquired their Offices by election not inheritance. That is only in North Korea and the likes.

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  • 27. At 06:07am on 19 Jan 2011, naveen wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 28. At 09:41am on 19 Jan 2011, Ashok Kumar wrote:

    Only a Military takeover will change India for the better

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  • 29. At 11:45am on 19 Jan 2011, Prateek wrote:

    Inheritance of ancestor's profession has been a long tradition in India and possibly elsewhere in the world as well. Caste system is one example of it. A priest's son usually became a priest, an artisan's son usually became an artisan, a shepherd's son usually became a shepherd and a farmer's son usually became a farmer (unfortunately daughters didn't have any organised profession). There are families of singers which are known as 'Gharana'. With this really long tradition of inheritance it has been an acceptable factor that the sons and daughter will join the parent's profession. But in the past relevant skills and knowledge were passed on to the next generation from their families, which has become irrelevant in modern industrial times. Since there are no specific political skills to be learnt from families or educational institutions the political families are able to get a good head start to any member joining the politics depending upon its clout.
    Also there is hardly any individualism in Indians and most of us are conformists. But with the change in economic scenario the things are likely to change. As younger generations are opting for professions quite different from their parent's, it is likely that with the development of individualism younger generations in political families will prefer to follow their hearts instead of their parent's advice.

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  • 30. At 2:10pm on 19 Jan 2011, Jay wrote:

    26. At 05:09am on 19 Jan 2011, Dr M Seshagiri Rao wrote:
    Hereditary Monarchy would mean people taking their places automatically by virtue of birth. Here, you are quoting cases of progeny who have been voted by common electorate to Office once held by their progenitors. That is not Hereditary.

    All those dynastic political families are successful mainly where medieval feudal system is fully established and maintained. Just go to Amethi or any other place in UP or Harayana or MP or Bihar (or any other state) village where where children from such dynasties get elected. There those politicians are treated as king, literally, not as public servant, not as a politicians (although they try thier best to remain "humble" in public places). That infatuation is not due to respect but due to fear, that becomes less painful if anyone convert that to "respect", at least in public. Consequences for not "showing respect" can be pretty severe. It can also be described by "Stockholm syndrome". "Raja babu", "mai baap" type 18th century salutation for such political "kings" is so common there.
    Even the new politicians (coming from crime or business houses) try its best to establish their own dynasty (e.g Mulayam Singh in UP, Md Shasabuddin in Bihar etc), and try to ensure financial prosperity for successive generations. The upbringing of the children in such dynastic families are such that they hardly can do any good, establish and enjoy themselves in any other profession. So it is not so surprising that the kid who is/was an average student at best, despite of studying in some of the best universities in UK/US (again due to parental power), are one of the most powerful politician in India with almost no idea about the country or its people or any other professional success or even interest.
    They all come with one goal: make money and enjoy power. Contribution (in terms of participation in debate, drafting new bill etc) of such new scions from such dynasties in Indian parliament is minimum, at best. No one really identifies kids from political dynasties like, Rahul Gandi or Sachin Pilot or Akhilesh Yadav for their active participation in a Loksabha debate or drafting laws. They prefer to work "behind the scene" and mainly for party propaganda (as poster boys) but enjoys unaccounted power. That is sufficient to demoralize any young and able politician without such dynastic power.
    Their political influence (associated with financial might and muscle power) often used to subdue many other better candidates, both from their own parties and from other parties.
    This has a long term consequences for Indian democracy.

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  • 31. At 2:46pm on 19 Jan 2011, BluesBerry wrote:

    Wow, what an eye-opener!
    I've always felt that India is too big to be an effective democracy...unless she re-roganizes herself into the "United States of India", giving valid representation to her multi-cultural and ethnic divisions.
    Of course India stumbled out of caste system, and I think that must make the development or progression of true democracy somewhat more difficult.
    But the culture of sycophancy about which you write is so brazen.
    I know that Rahul Gandhi will be PM one day; he is a Gandhi; but I don't foresee his coming to power as a necessarily good move for India.
    Thanks for this analysis.

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  • 32. At 3:00pm on 19 Jan 2011, UNS wrote:

    I would beg to differ with many of the comments offering solutions that go astray from the path of democracy, specifically constitutional-democracy. For all the quirks of the Indian democracy I would take it any day over a military take over or any other forms of government. You don't have to look far from the borders of India to see the consequences.

    In-fact I would go so far to say that the only significant achievement by India in the past many decades has been the firm establishment of constitutional democracy. Rest all the good and shining things have happened because of this simple and yet important development.

    Of all the forms of government mankind has ever conceived, establishing and sustaining a democratic government is by far the toughest and the most inclusive. Rest all (monarchy, communism, dictatorship, military junta,etc) are all very easily established, hard to sustain and faces insurmountable issues to keep up a progressive society. Come to think of it, many countries in the world have taken up the easier path and face the prospect of a gloomy and extremely uncertain transition of government. India chose to take the tougher path and successfully nurtured its democracy to a point where it is serving her well. Nobody's saying the job is done. It took generations of leaders and lots of violent differences for today's developed democracy to be where they are. India is yet to see her 2nd generation of leaders to take up the mantle.

    Remember, for those of you who are so quick to suggest alternative forms of rule, that any other forms of law other than a constitutional democracy wouldn't even entertain your comments (whatever they might be) in the first place.

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  • 33. At 3:51pm on 19 Jan 2011, tridiv wrote:

    John Daw wrote: "The Chinese model does not offer elections but it does offer governance and accountability."

    One question: Do you know the meaning of (good) governance and accountability? Please look up before you post such utter nonsense. For all their faults and shortcomings, elected governments are any day more accountable to the people (and sustainable) than any one party dictatorship.

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  • 34. At 4:15pm on 19 Jan 2011, Jay wrote:

    It is a fact that almost none of these politicians from the dynasties have any sense of understanding of Indian society, its culture, its rationale, its problems and, most importantly, ability to suggest solutions for any of those.
    There is hardly any no-frill interview by Sonia or Rahul Gandhi or any other "baba log" from ANY political dynasties to appear in interviews by eminent international journalists like Matt Frei or Charlie Rose or Christian Amanpore. I hardly have seen them taking part in active debate on any issue of national importance or expressing their own opinion on that issue (other than issuing written statements AFTER judging the public sentiment). They are carefully shielded from media, from exposing their naivety and ignorance in public. Those people are only used as propaganda tool for the party by invoking past "glories" and "great deeds" by the previous "kings" form the same dynasty and some populist slogans ("garibi hatao" , "amm admi" type phrases) which hardly have any merit and proven to be non-functional to achieve any of its stated goals (as national policies).

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  • 35. At 4:28pm on 19 Jan 2011, Abhishek Chaudhari wrote:

    Book look good and your article too. But as you yourself mention in the last - 'Merit triumphed over dynasty in the recent elections in dirt-poor Bihar. So though lineage remains a key factor in politics, remind analysts, it can only give a headstart, and nothing more. Thank democracy for that.' There are hopes...
    Remember the great line of Chief Ministers - Modi, Raman Singh, Nitish Kumar etc etc.
    Take it Politics / Industry / Bollywood, the second generation survived only on talent and performance except the 'Nehru-Gandhi family'. So, the chances of sliding into hereditary monarchy looks exaggerated. Since ancient times, Indian society have contradictory tenancies. Even the Indica, the Megasthenes' account, mentioned peculiar things he noticed. The foreigners termed them as Contradictions.
    But the point in the book and your article is to be taken seriously.
    Thanks.

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  • 36. At 5:00pm on 19 Jan 2011, Jay wrote:

    Had Indian government and concerned authorities took necessary steps to deliver justice to Shankar Guha Niogy and local people, we could have avoided rapid rise of naxals in that part of India. We still did not learn from such incidents and wrongly believe that our police and army will be able to protect us and the country from mass frustration and then fury!

    The situation has deteriorated further since then. CBI is now more political than any time in Indian history and its rate of prosecution is deteriorating further (http://www.indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/88296/LATEST%20HEADLINES/CBI). Rampant corruption among High and Supreme court judges are coming into light at regular interval. The rot is not limited to CBI or judiciary. Credibility of almost any democratic institution is dwindling. Even the newly appointed Chief Vigilance commissioner (CVC), is under scanner for corruption charges (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/corrupt-cvc/720755/).
    General people feel helpless. Now people are showing higher tendency to take laws into their own hands for obvious reasons. Many are taking up guns. It is quite evident from the rapid spread of Naxals and other extremist violence all over India. Minor scuffle are becoming too common in Indian cities and towns that never been reported to police and public settle such disputes more among themselves or invite other people (may be local mafia or political leaders) to settle disputes than to seek help of police or court. In reality, today whole India is divided in "area" (elaka) controlled by specific person or group of people. Bigger the area, more powerful the "godfather" is.
    Rise of regional, linguistic parties are the result of such public frustration. They are no less dangerous to the same people they claim to protect.
    I am optimistic now. It is tough to maintain a monarchy, such jungle raj, in this era of internet and 24x7 TV news channels for too long. This tendency (of dynastic politics and feudal rule) will end. The big question is "When", and more importantly, "how" (at what cost)!
    I hope it will not claim too many lives, too much blood shed or massive anarchy before it (Indian republic) regain its senses
    .

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  • 37. At 6:38pm on 19 Jan 2011, NRI wrote:

    Remember the great king Bharat on whose name our country is Bharat. As the story goes at the begining of Mahabharat - HE had 8 sons but he selected a common man who was more capable to be his successor rather than any of his 8 sons. Now follow the same down the story of MAhabharat the great war. The seeds were planted when worthy successor was sidelined in favour of particular son. Mahabharat may be true or be it a one great poem conceived by the elders of the time but the lesson is same.
    In my professional graduate school I knew of a person who was trustee in the school management and head of finance. The school policy reserved 2 registration for the employees of the organization. Still this man of principle did not forward his only son's name for that Professional course. Instead his son appeared for enntry test like any other ordinary student on 3 occassions without success. The only comment this gentleman made was - looks like my son does not have the quality and competence to be in this profession. He still did not recommend him for reserved employee registration. The son ultimately opted for some other profession.
    Mahatma Gandhi had 4 sons but none of his descendants are in active politics. Sardar Patel when he was home minister asked his son not to visit him in Delhi with advise that people will try and influence him through his son. We need man of principles like these.
    One of the posts rightly said there is no internal democracy in any party regrding selecting its leaders. How can we expect otherwise in Parliament.
    Politics has become family business and businesses are kept in family as it covers all wrong doing and keeps family secrets within family.
    So what are we doing about it rather than maning. As far as we are concerned, so called educated, there is no point in deserting electoral process as there is no worthy candidate. Atlease go and select the best among the worst. Over the time things will improve. We can not enjoy election day as additional holiday and plan long weekend on comfortable hill station. If we do that we have no right to complain as we have allowed that to happen by consent of absence.
    In any case elections are always there every 5 years. Let us try and select the best among the worst, give some benefit of doubt. Look what he represents, what does he stand for. Assessment should be National issues for national election and State issues for state election and Local issues for local municipal elections. Even if that means you vote for different party and individual at different time. Idea is to select the right person for right job. We do this all the time. We select what is best for us in all aspects of life then let us do the same in elections and elect the right person at right level for right job.
    Things can improve and it is all in our hand be it every 5 years. But then this is what the democracy is - power of the people.

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  • 38. At 11:08pm on 19 Jan 2011, bn wrote:

    India got Independence with partition and the Nehru family on congress party became PM.Pandit Nehru earned PM and Indira Gandhi,Rajiv Gandhi,Sanjay Gandhi,Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi inherited Power forming
    Hereditary Monarchy.Likewise so many MP's who won 8 times and their children,wife,nephew ,niece have inherited Power and after 63 yrs of Independence the mai-baap culture,raja and scyophancy rewarded chamchas committing the gravest injustices to the helpless ,innocent Indians and the
    Hereditary Monarchy of DMK Karunanidhi,NCP Sharad Pawar etc has shown the fact that Indira Gandhi was the only man in the cabinet and Emergency etc.The future is indicating the past trend of Hereditary Monarchy and we
    Indians do not have the spine for Individuality,Courage and would be just
    Chamchas.Sad and inhuman but true.

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  • 39. At 00:02am on 20 Jan 2011, Alastore wrote:

    One can say the exactly same thing about Japan too, which happens to be one of the most successful countries in the world.

    Dynasticism, democracy...one may call the past century the age of ideologies, now it's time to wake up and stop fitting the society into an idea instead of the other way around. Surely you must find the right shoe-size for your feet rather than "feet-size" for a pair of shoes, no matter how shiny those shoes may look like. To ignore the traditions of a society and try to impose some sort of universal model onto it is plainly out of date.

    Democracy counts not as a standard package of solution but how much it brings forth genuine representativeness (people's willing), accountability, efficiency in decision making, effectiveness in facilitating policies, adaptability and equity. It's not even a matter of statistics since a solution for one nation might be poison for another, the stake is too high to take a chance by swallowing even a relatively more-likely-to-success model. The key doesn't lie within the conformity towards certain ideology but how to utilise the relevant bits from a pool of ideas to address the specific needs of the nation.

    If young MPs came with certain family backgrounds, so be it, it's only their performances a matter of concern. I would even venture to say if Indian system is in fact pretty much the same as pre-colonial days, she would still stand tall by her own right as long as Indian people were served well by the system. Chanting about "true democracy" is not going to solve any of those problems. Perhaps modern management study, game theory, psychology, sociology, macroeconomics, judicial study etc. would shed more insight about how improve the system.

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  • 40. At 01:09am on 20 Jan 2011, Jay wrote:

    39. At 00:02am on 20 Jan 2011, Alastore wrote:
    I would even venture to say if Indian system is in fact pretty much the same as pre-colonial days, she would still stand tall by her own right as long as Indian people were served well by the system. Chanting about "true democracy" is not going to solve any of those problems.

    The short answer is: NO, Indian people were/are NOT served well by this system.
    The most wealthy "kings" (alias, political dynasties) came from the poorest, most socially backward constituencies. It is true that the tendencies of feudalism, dynastic rule gathered momentum the day the British handed over the power to "brown sahibs" (who, unfortunately, happen to be Indians by birth and could not manage so much power and social acceptability in Britain) than to real Indians. Probably Brits had their own reasons to have defacto control over India.
    Our first PM, the originator of dynastic politics, Mr Jawaharlal Nehru was more British than Indian. His "Indian" style coat, "Jawahar coat" and a rose could not hide his profound love for British culture and its religious practice. His incompetence as PM (compared to many able leaders present that time, in Congress and elsewhere) made his a great supporter of dynastic politics. His grooming of arguably the MOST corrupt politician in post-independent India, Indira Gandhi (who institutionalized corruption and also started criminalization of politics) says it all.
    Then it was all, practically, domino effect. Now we see the tree, those past "leaders" sowed and watered, in full bloom.

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  • 41. At 02:23am on 20 Jan 2011, Jay wrote:

    Ii fact the root for such dynastic politics started with our great MK Gandhi. Congress party under his leadership favored sycophancy. Whenever someone dared to oppose his thinking and political strategies, he (along with his loyal followers like Jawahar Lal Nehru) made sure that such rebels do not stay in the party. First they tactfully or shrewdly sidelined that person and then forced him to leave the party. It was the case for Subhas Bose, BR Ambedkar type great INDIAN leaders. later he refused to give direction to this newly independent India (unlike Nelson Mendala). On the other hand, Jawaharlal Nehru started introducing his own version of democracy which practically paved the way for this deformed version of it, as we see today. His personal interpretation of Indian history was introduced as a standard text book for Indian school students.
    I was reading the book by Gail Omvedt , "Ambedka: Towards an Enlightened India". It was so obvious the difference in thinking of people like Ambedkar or Subhas Bose as compared to "brown sahibs" like Nehru. Jawaharlal Nehru, Indian Gandhi type leaders hardly knew what India is, what rural India means. The same tendencies we find in Rajiv and in many subsequent Indian governments. They emphasized on city based "development", mostly at the expanse of rural, heart of India. That's one of the reasons why our rural economy is almost ruined, despite of ~9% annual growth rate; (national) poverty level is not much different today (34.7%) as compared to what it was in pre-liberalized India (in 70s or 80s).
    Their mediocrity as national leaders provoked them to promote dynastic politics. Even at the best of opportunities none of the dynastic scions ever showed any sign of any professional excellence, and, probably that's why they had to survive and flourish using the family business of politics.

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  • 42. At 02:37am on 20 Jan 2011, Jay wrote:

    Correction for my post#40:
    His "Indian" style coat, "Jawahar coat" and a rose could not hide his profound love for British culture and followed that religiously.


    Correction for my post#41:
    Jawaharlal Nehru, INDIRA Gandhi type leaders hardly knew what India is, what rural India means.They OVERemphasized on city based "development", mostly at the expanse of rural, heart of India.

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