How Modi era has marked the end of ‘achhe din’ for dynasts in new India

How Modi era has marked the end of ‘achhe din’ for dynasts in new India

How Modi era has marked the end of ‘achhe din’ for dynasts in new India

Even the harshest critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi believe that he has changed the grammar of Indian politics since 2014 in more ways than one. Performance and merit are fast replacing sycophancy and surname politics.

Any party that remains in power for a long time sets of rules of the game for the times to come, and all smaller players imitate the success formula. The Congress was that party till 2014 and dynastic politics was the formula it taught to Indian polity. The Congress, which was steered as a movement by the likes of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Madan Mohan Malaviya, Subhas Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi was appropriated by the Nehru-Vadra family after Independence. And through their cheerleaders in the media, they established themselves as the ‘first family’ of the country. So much so that Congress even cut to size the likes of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, BR Ambedkar and Lal Bahadur Shastri.

With the façade of furthering democracy in the country, slowly and meticulously the first family invented a unique formula to kill the democracy and meritocracy within the Congress party. There were three essential elements to this formula: First, let the baton of the party pass on to the members of the Nehru-Vadra family; second, don’t allow any regional leader of the party to look taller than the members of the first family; third, create this illusion in the party workers that only the members of the first family can bind the party together.

Smaller regional satraps were quick to follow the trick. So, with the Nehru-Vadra family at the Centre, Muftis and Abdullahs became the first family of Jammu and Kashmir, respective Yadav families controlled their parties in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Gowdas in Karnataka, Thackerays and Pawars in Maharashtra, Karunanidhi & Sons in Tamil Nadu, KCR & Sons in Telangana, Naidu & Co. and YSR & Co. in Andhra Pradesh.

One sin leads to another. To maintain the heft of the family’s second name over merit, the Congress had to invent further hacks. Committed bureaucracy and judiciary, friendly media, winning elections through caste politics, and minority appeasement became further corollaries of this vicious family-run party formula.

But after 2014, Prime Minister Modi spoiled the party for the dynasts. His pro-people, technology-led, efficient, non-corrupt governance soon started winning over the lazy caste and appeasement politics. People started seeing through the bluff. Voices of discontent started surfacing within the Congress, groups like G-23 started rising within the party.

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Even after fatal electoral losses, the Nehru-Vadra family kept on playing the musical chairs among the members of the first family for the top position of the party. In 2017, Rahul Gandhi went to the extent of brazenly defending dynastic politics on a global stage. At an event at the University of California, Berkeley, he said that all of India runs on dynasties and that’s the way it is. Coincidently, the same day, Amit Shah, the then BJP national president was having food at the house of a booth level karyakarta of BJP in West Bengal, where the party was hardly any force in 2017.

I understand that children following their parents’ occupation is natural. Sachin Tendulkar’s son becoming a cricketer is natural; Amitabh Bachchan’s son naturally becomes an actor; and, Rajnath Singh’s son foraying into politics is also natural. The problem starts when Sachin’s son, even if not talented and not performing, becomes the captain of the team and remains so for decades. If Abhishek Bachchan is called a megastar even after delivering multiple flops. Or, if Pankaj Singh is given the charge of Uttar Pradesh politics, because of his father’s laurels. Even after multiple failures, the likes of Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav, HD Kumaraswamy run their respective parties as their family-owned companies. Unlike the BJP, a grassroots-level 

karyakarta in these family-run enterprises cannot ever dream of becoming the top boss of the party.

On the contrary, the BJP’s success can be attributed solely to the merit-based promotion of their leaders. A look at the BJP’s leadership in the last two decades makes it clear. JP Nadda is not related to Amit Shah; Amit Shah is not related to Rajnath Singh; Rajnath Singh is not related to Nitin Gadkari or to Venkaiah Naidu or LK Advani. They all come from different castes, and different regions of the country. Only thing common among all of them is merit and performance.

The dynasts from these ‘first families’ know that they are in Parliament or Assembly because of their respective family names and so performance never remains their focus. As a result, Rahul Gandhi’s attendance in the 17th Lok Sabha is a dismal 56 per cent, Akhilesh Yadav’s 33 per cent, and Abhishek Banerjee’s 13 per cent. Whereas Modi-led BJP ensures that even if one is connected to a political family, he or she cannot compromise on the performance. Owing to that Parvesh Sahib Singh’s attendance in 17th Lok Sabha is 93 per cent and Poonam Mahajan’s is 83 per cent.

To counter the dynastic grammar of Indian politics post-2014, Prime Minister Modi made multiple political and governance innovations. Dynasts challenged that they have created a system with 85 per cent leakage, Prime Minister Modi responded with Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile (JAM Trinity) to revolutionise government delivery in India. Dynasts challenged PM Modi that they own Jat, Yadav votes, etc. Prime Minister Modi responded by creating a new beneficiary vote-bank, through efficient delivery of the government benefits cutting across castes. Dynasts challenged Prime Minister Modi that their friends in the media will not cover the prime minister’s good work; Prime Minister Modi started reaching out to his voters directly through democratic social media. Dynasts cornered the BJP as a Hindu, cow belt party; Prime Minister Modi made them do ‘temple run’, and chant Hanuman Chalisa.

Prime Minister Modi has made politics a full-time job for the lazy dynasts. Now they can’t flirt with politics casually. And thus, with the Modi era started the end of ‘achhe din’ for the dynasts.

The writer is the author of the book, ‘BJP: Past, Present and Future’. Views expressed are personal.

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