On ‘dynastic’ politics

I am currently reading the book ‘Courting Destiny’, memoirs of Shanti Bhushan. Shanti Bhushan is an acclaimed lawyer and has appeared in several important constitutional cases. His claim to fame is his success in the election petition case against the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the Allahabad High Court. That success led subsequently led to the Emergency and changed the political course of our country. He was also a founding member of the BJP (though he quit its primary membership in 1986) and was also the Union Law Minister in the first non-Congress Government under Moraji Desai. His memoirs is a fascinating read giving an insider view of one of the most happening phases of Indepedent India’s history. It showcases the highs and the lows of Indian judiciary.

One particular passage in the book caught my attention given the recent focus on dynastic politics. Shanti Bhushan writes,

“People normally deprecate the concept of a dynasty in politics. They do not realize that the environment in which children grow has a tremendous impact on their thinking and attitudes. A son of a politiocian, therefore, may become a successful politician in his own right. He may get a head start due to his family background, but it is generally ignored that he becomes a successful politician only if he has the talent and works hard. Children of doctors or lawyers also have that advantage and many go on to become successful doctors or lawyers. But they achieve success in their professions only due to talent and hard work.” (Pg. 249)

But there are dynastic politics and dynastic politics.

RajivRajiv Gandhi was sworn in as Prime Minister within hours of the death of his mother and then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Though Rajiv went on to win a historic landslide later the first time he was made a Prime Minister was a blatant case of perpetuating a dynasty.


 DMKFamilyA cartoon (Source: Dinamalar) on dynastic politics in DMK. The top row shows the five great leaders of DMK in the past – CN Annadurai, Nedenchezian, EVK Sampath, Mathiazhagan & SV Natarajan. The bottom row shows the five ‘great’ leaders of the present – M Karunanidhi, Son Stalin, Son Azhagiri, Daughter Kanimozhi, Grand nephew Dayanidhi!!

“தி.மு.க என்பது திருக்குவளை மு.கருணாநிதி லிமிடெட் கம்பெனியாகிப் பல காலம் ஆயிற்று.” – ஞாநி, குமுதம், 26-5-2009


““Yes, the Gandhi name gives one an unfair advantage, but many more of you should join politics and take away that edge.”

“I am the product of an unfair, closed world. I want to use my unfair advantage to rpice the world open for you” – Rahul Gandhi (Source: Tehelka)



I also read recently that the adopted son of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister CN Anna Durai twice rejected offers of Lok Sabha election tickets once by the party founded by his father (DMK) and the other by the party founded in the name of his father (ADMK).

“…the life of C.N.A. Parimalam, son of DMK founder C.N. Annadurai, offers a study in contrast. A government doctor, Parimalam committed suicide by jumping into a well in Chennai’s Nungambakkam area in March last year. He was 67. He is said to have ended his life because he was worried about the expenses his family was incurring for his heart ailment. The high ideals Parimalam had imbibed from his father forbade him from seeking financial support from either of the two big Dravidian parties that live off his father’s legacy.” Outlook , June 8, 2009 (http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20090608&fname=Cover+Story&sid=3 )

So, there are dynastic politics and there are dynastic politics!


3 thoughts on “On ‘dynastic’ politics

  1. I always hear that it is the Indian tradition that children follow their parent’s footsteps and nothing wrong if son/daughter of politician becomes politician as nobody seems to have any problem when lawyers, doctors’ son follow the same profession. But I think such kind of explanation is highly misplaced in this context, law and medicine is very different from politics. Isn’t leader should emerge from within the people, not from the legitimate heir of senior leader? I think politics of dynastic is the real challenge for the Indian democracy. It should not become a family business which will eventually lead to even more disengagement from the real people.

    • @ JB : A son or daughter of a politician sure have an unfair advantage when it comes for his/her first election. But thats how life is, equality is attained only in death. But the political heir will not sustain if he/she does not perform or connect with people. It is the people who elect him back to the Parliament/Legislature whether it is the first term or later terms. And as I told there are dynastic poltics and dynastic politics. To put them all together is too simplistic an analysis.

  2. Pingback: On political dynasties | Indian Liberals

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