Lok Sabha election and dynastic politics in India
The prediction was made earlier that Narendra Damodardas Modi is going to be the Prime Minister of India again. The person introduces himself as a caretaker, not as the ruler of the people. It was confirmed on 24th May that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is going to form the government for the second time winning 351 seats.
The general election of India was held in seven phases from 11th April to 19th May. Out of the 543 constituencies in the Indian Parliament, 542 seats were cast. As such a party must get 272 seats to form the government, where BJP got 303 seats alone in the election!
On last 30th May, Narendra Modi took oath as the 15th prime minister of the country at Raisina Hill in New Delhi. The Indian National Congress, the oldest political party in India, has been defeated in that election; they got only 52 seats. In 2014, this party got 44 seats only.
The Congress, founded in 1885, is the largest and one of the oldest political party in the world, whose current president and general secretary are two siblings--Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi. Everyone knows, they are the children of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and former Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Naturally the question comes, the victory of Narendra Modi is not a message to dynastic politics in India?
Dynasticism is a very common scenario in South Asian politics. To elect leaders for the political party, their skill, merit, honesty, sacrifice etc should be considered. But the reality is, in this region, the future leader of the political party is considered only from the party chief's family, i.e., children or spouse or sibling.
Many times, the party chief also creates a platform for her/his desire family member by providing additional responsibilities in the party's activities to make them acceptable among the party-workers and the people. Looking at the past, we see, in South Asian region, especially in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the chief of the political party and the government is preferring to be elected from a particular political family.
The example of being the world's first female prime minister was established in South Asia's country Sri Lanka and that is because of dynastic politics. The prominent speaker and politician Solomon Bandaranaike, born in Colombo, was the then Ceylon prime minister from 1956 to 1959. After being killed by the Buddhist monk in 1959, his widow Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the world's first female prime minister.
Sirimavo Bandaranaike was the prime minister of Sri Lankan for three times and during her tenure, the name of the Ceylon was changed to Sri Lanka. Her daughter Chandrika Kumaratunga was also the prime minister of Sri Lanka before being president from 1994 to 2005. After becoming the president, Chandrika nominated her mother as her prime minister!
But the present president of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena emerged from the outside of the dynastic politics.
After joining the politics actively, he served as the general secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party along with several ministries of the government until 1994. In the presidential election of 2015, Sirisena became the president of Sri Lanka after defeating his opponent and former president Mahendra Rajapaksa as a candidate of the New Democratic Front (NDF). He announced the new trend of politics, in which, any president cannot be in power more than once.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is the current ruling party in Pakistan. In 1996, former Pakistan cricket team captain Imran Khan formed this party. The party first won a seat in the national election of Pakistan in 2002, but the party was boycotted from the election in 2008. In the 2013 election, PTI got 7.5 million votes and won 34 seats. In the last 2018 election, the party won 16.9 million votes and won 116 seats. Accordingly, outside of dynastic politics, Imran Khan took oath as the 22nd prime minister of Pakistan. In that election the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) got only 43 seats.
But, once the PPP was the most influential political party in Pakistan. Former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was the founder of the party. After a political assassination by the then president in 1977, his daughter Benazir Bhutto became the president of the party and twice elected as the prime minister of the country. When Benazir was killed in a suicide attack in 2007, her 19-year-old son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was nominated as the president of the party. Though she nominated her husband Asif Ali Zardari as the party's president but Zardari himself proposed his son's name. Later, when PPP came to power, Zardari became the president of the country and the vice-president of the party.
In our Bangladesh the influence of dynasticism is immense. After the independence of the country in 1971, the head of the political party and as well as the government, almost everyone, was in that position under the influence of dynastic politics. Even the head of the opposition party could not go beyond the trend. Recently a former dictator, who was in power for nine years, nominated his younger brother as the next leader of his own founded party. It is useless to say if any of his children was active in politics, then he certainly did not nominate his brother.
The problem of dynastic politics is that a citizen of the state can be held in any other position but cannot be elected as the head of the political party or the government! Politics is such a thing that has to do with discretion and prudence; leaders have to be selected by considering their courage, wisdom, obedience and the most important- decision making and crisis managing capability.
Nobody can swear that these qualities flow through blood or marital relations. The opportunities that are given to the party chief's family members to bring them under the limelight, if these are given to a talented leader who evolved from the grassroots level, obviously the charismatic leader must be created.
India is the major political, economic and military power in South Asia. The country is the world's largest democratic state with 90 million voters. In Indian politics, once the Congress was dominant. Jawaharlal Nehru was the first prime minister of independent India. Under the supervision of Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru appeared himself as one of the main leaders of the Congress.
Later, his daughter Indira Gandhi served as the prime minister of India. The dynasticism in Congress has been initiated through Indira Gandhi. Though the Gandhi title is used, actually the family is Nehru family. It is well-known to everyone, how did Indira Priyadarshini Nehru marry Feroze Khan and how did Firoz Khan become Feroze Gandhi.
Congress is the best example of dynastic politics. Indira Gandhi's son Rajiv Gandhi was also the prime minister of India. Though Rajiv Gandhi's wife Sonia Gandhi returns from the edge of power but this is a sure one that her son Rahul Gandhi will be the prime minister of India if the party will be in power again.
The Congress has not won any general election after 2009. In the 17th Lok Sabha election, the people of India casted their votes against dynastic politics. This victory of Narendra Modi generally seems to be the victory of BJP or letdown of the Congress, but we must think that this judgment of the people carry special message to dynastic politics in India.
Nazrul Islam, is a columnist and MPhil researcher at the School of Education of Bangladesh Open University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org