Donkeys, dynasties and a forgetful electorate

Last Updated: Fri, Mar 09, 2012 10:59 hrs

While Congress heir apparent Rahul Gandhi and former UP CM Mayawati have taken a beating in the 2012 elections, one thing about Indian politics is that you are never really finished. Whether it’s at the national level or at the state level, there are usually only 2-3 strong political parties and they keep coming by rotation, no matter how good or bad they perform.

The biggest example is Chimanbhai Patel. The Gujarat Chief Minister was booted out of the Jayaprakash Narayan-inspired students’ movement (that finally led to the Emergency) in 1974. His name was written on donkeys and mothers came and pledged that they would not name their children Chimanbhai for generations. However, the very same generation brought him back to power in 1990.

The case of the Congress party is no different. In 2004 it seemed finished. The NDA looked set to return to power. Manmohan Singh had lost the Lok Sabha elections of 1999. Sonia Gandhi was said to have failed to have revived the

party. Yet not only did the UPA surprise all the pollsters in 2004 by coming to power, but made another stunning comeback in 2009 with a greater seat share in Parliament. So badly have the pollsters been mauled that they say there is

no way that the NDA can come to power with a convincing majority in 2014.

But that is totally erroneous. The Indian electorate has a Ghajini-style memory and one never really knows which way it will swing.

While everyone is praising Mulayam Singh Yadav today, let us not forget that he has been CM of UP thrice, never completing a 5-year term. All his stints were marred by allegations of gross criminalisation of politics.

The electorate have rewarded those three terms of great misrule by giving him such an absolute majority, that he will complete five years with ease this time. So comprehensive has been his mandate that if the SP continues like that for a couple of years, then Mulayam will be a kingmaker (and an outside chance of even becoming PM) in 2014.

Mayawati also has to wait it out till 2014 or 2017 or 2019… when she is bound to strike gold in any one of these Lok Sabha/Assembly elections by the law of averages.

The same applies to Narendra Modi. He also could easily become PM of India one day. He is just 61. We have moved on from “He should quit immediately as CM” to “He can’t be removed as CM” to “He can’t be PM” to “He will

find it very difficult to be PM” already. By LK Advani’s standards, he still has 20 more years to take a crack at the PM’s post.

Indian politics is a strange bird. It is very difficult to get in and capture power. But once you are in, it is very difficult to get out and keep power away. Those lucky dynasties…

Of course, the easiest way to becoming a top politician/CM/PM in India is to be born into the house of a top politician/CM/PM!

The luckiest person around is probably Rahul Gandhi. He is still a small kid (by political standards) at 41. He will be 43 in 2014, 48 in 2019, 53 in 2024… and so on. He will probably get at least ten attempts at becoming Prime Minister.

Pandit Motilal Nehru became Congress President in 1919. So if Rahul takes over the party leadership in the next few years he would be the sixth president of the dynasty and he would be celebrating 100 years of the dynasty in style in 2019!

While everyone concentrates on the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, what about the thousands of mini-dynasties spread all across India?

Now Akhilesh Yadav will definitely become CM of UP one day. Who knows anything about his governing abilities? In many other cases like Jyotirda Scindia and Sachin pilot it is almost as if their father’s parliamentary seat was reserved for them.

Indian politics is probably far superior to Bollywood in nurturing the dynasty and has thousands of politicians who are second, third or fourth generation. (Rahul is fifth-generation)

India, for all its liberalization, modernization and development is still very much a feudal monarchy.​

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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs at

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