By Harshit Pande
Political dynasties and hereditary succession in politics are political realities. It is a feature observable in political systems ranging from democracies to autocracies, and also at all levels of politics, from local to national. This portion of the paper serves to inquire as to how a dynasty is established.
India has a rich history in producing political dynasties. The primary reason for such a tendency may be traced to the nature of Indian politics, which is hereditary and personalized. This nature of Indian politics is ingrained in firmly established kinship networks and family ties that have an intimate affinity with caste, ethnicity, and identity.
Caste is the primary basis of formation of most regional dynasties. Dynastic democracy has brought about a revolution in caste by investing the traditionally powerless with power. Politicians depend on kinship networks to secure caste-based support at the grassroots level. Rather than it being a private individual choice, voting in India is determined by “consensual considerations of caste, family, and kinship.” A political leader’s identity (caste) plays an important role in encouraging outcomes of policies devised by him. For a party to be successful, the leader must personify the area’s political culture. A prominent example pertinent to the case will be the Yadavs of Uttar Pradesh. The rise of the Yadavs in U.P. was based on explanations of caste. The backward classes of the state of Uttar Pradesh voted Samajwadi Party to power because they believed that SP would improve their conditions. The Samajwadi Party, which is centered on its leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, is a fertile ground for dynastic politics. The keystone of the party, Mulayam Singh Yadav, is a dynast himself with seven members of his family holding positions of power in the state. Although the party lacks a well-developed organizational structure, it profits from the well-developed political networks set up by a Yadav caste association called the All India Yadav Mahasabha. The association, since the early 20th century, has promoted the process of politicization of Yadavs in various parts of India.
Another important factor that leads to the establishment of a dynasty is India’s strong family traditions. Family traditions of India justify dynasticism in the eyes of the voters. The Indian thought is of the view is that it is natural and acceptable for a parent who has any form of power to want to hand it over to the progeny. In his book ‘Dynasties of India and Beyond’, Inder Malhotra mentions “the vocal minority’s denunciation of dynasties-particularly loud in India and primarily directed against the Nehru-Gandhi-is indeed out of sync with the basic reflex of the silent majority… To the bulk of the subcontinent’s population, there seems nothing objectionable in political power passing from parent to progeny”. The Crown princes born into political dynasties are shepherded into politics by parents already successful in politics. Their entry into the arena of politics is looked after without them having to totter through the dirt of politics. It is the family legacy that helps them win elections and gain positions of power.
Analyzing the role of the members of former royal families in electoral politics can provide an insight into another facet of dynastic politics. Member of former royal families gain easy access to positions of power based on their cultural relevance, a factor that makes them easily acceptable in the eyes of the voters. The “traditional” support enjoyed by the royals even after their royal status was taken away, coupled with the royals adopting modern campaign techniques, building political parties and defending the popular position on issues of prominence have led to them entering electoral politics and forming political dynasties.
Elite-bargaining: The term that describes Indira Gandhi’s succession. Mrs. Gandhi came in to fill up an existing leadership vacuum. The point worth mentioning here is that she was nominated as a result of elite-consensus among the Congress bosses. However, it cannot be denied that Indira prepared the grounds for Rajiv’s succession by ensuring that no state chief minister was strong enough to “circumvent the smooth success of her son to the office of [Prime Minister].”
Harshit Pande: Is a first year student at National Law University, Odisha pursuing a B.A. L.L.B degree. Is keenly interested in sociology, psychology and history, though finds time for literature and philosophy. Loves to read, and at times writes. Is a firm libertarian. Feel free to contact him at email@example.com
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