Kid me not, new idioms spruce up old lingo. India’s greying leaders use gravitas as their favourite political pose for commanding respect among friends, foes and frenemies. On the other hand, the young ‘uns of Indian statecraft with disparate views speak the same language with social media banter. They rarely meet in public, but are constantly bonding on their smartphones. Last week, a Twitter exchange between two political scions created a media buzz.
A post by former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah showing off his snow-laden picture-perfect wooden bungalow in Srinagar brought an envious response from a political heir apparent from south India. K T Rama Rao (KTR), the promising working president of Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) tweeted back, “If only there was a wish granting factory, I’d have one right there; somewhere closer.” Omar graciously responded, “Treat mine as yours and stay anytime you like”.
Since obviously it wasn’t a political proposition, KTR responded, “Hey, I am gonna take that offer rather seriously Omar Saab.” Considering they have hardly ever met for a political discussion, the affinity was refreshingly different. Their fathers—one a sitting chief minister and the other a former CM—haven’t been spotted together on any significant platform. But the connectivity and chemistry between their progeny indicate not only a generational change in political etiquette but also the future accoutrements of the Great Indian Political Salon.
KTR and Omar aren’t the only ones who are walking the new talk in their constituencies and signposting the road map ahead, in which the Congress and the BJP would have little role to play. The Omar-KTR tweetfest is also not an isolated case of a harbinger of harmony superseding the calamities of confrontation. Over half a dozen young leaders are on the driving seat of many regional parties. Using new means and methods, they are bringing relief to the arid wasteland of offensive political discourse, although India seems fated to suffer dynastic politics for longer than one can imagine.
Almost the entire non-BJP landscape is dominated by the political gene pool. Barring Rahul Gandhi, the young challengers are from the non-Brahminical order. With the exception of Tejashwi Yadav, they are either foreign educated or have studied at India’s toniest of educational institutions. Barring Rahul, they belong to backward castes or landed non-Brahmin communities. The other political DNA thread that binds them is the fact that they are the sons or grandsons of former prime ministers and chief ministers. Check out Akhilesh, Tejashwi, Omar, KTR, Jagan Mohan Reddy, Jayant Choudhry (RLD), H D Kumaraswamy and M K Stalin.
Rahul Gandhi, 48, president of the Congress party, is the son of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. Though he took the Congress plunge in 2004, he was insulated from domestic politics, having spent his wonder years in the best schools and colleges in India and overseas. According to websites, he studied at Doon School, St. Stephens College, Harvard, Rollins College, Florida and Trinity, Cambridge University. Before politics, he worked for private firms.
Akhilesh Yadav, 45, is the son of former UP chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav. He went to a military school in Rajasthan and then to Bengaluru for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Civil Environmental Engineering. Subsequently, his doting dad sent him off to Sydney to acquire another master’s degree.
Omar Abdullah, 48, is the son of former J&K chief minister Farooq Abdullah. Born in England, he studied at Burn Hall School in Srinagar and Lawrence School, Sanawar in Himachal Pradesh. Farooq sent his son to the University of Strathclyde in Scotland to get his BCom and MBA degrees.
KTR, 42, is the son of Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao. Kalvakuntla Taraka Rama Rao completed his schooling from the elite St. George’s Grammar School, Hyderabad, and his bachelor’s degree in microbiology from Nizam College. Having secured a postgraduate degree from University of Pune, he went to the US to complete an MBA in marketing and e-commerce from Baruch College-The City University of New York.
Jayant Choudhary, 40, is the grandson of former prime minister Charan Singh and the son of ex-Union minister Ajit Singh. He is currently the vice president of Rashtriya Lok Dal, founded by his father. He is an MSc degree-holder from the London School of Economics.
Jagan Mohan Reddy, 46, is the son of former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, Y S Rajasekhara Reddy. He went to Hyderabad Public School and graduated from Nizam College. He holds an MBA degree.
The unavoidable axiom of political families is watch and learn. Before they can weave their own webs, all political offspring spend their growing years as a fly on the wall, such as M K Stalin in Tamil Nadu and Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh, watching their fathers excel at image laundering or muckraking to retain or capture power at any cost.
For the past few weeks, most of them have been burning up airplane fuel from one city to another, calling on each other to take the “Defeat Modi” operation forward. A set of squeaky clean new rules and a manual of some dirty tricks is their new syllabus book. For example, when Akhilesh and BSP chief Mayawati refused to include the Congress in the UP-specific mahagathbandhan, Tejashwi flew to Lucknow to meet them and emphasise the need for Opposition unity. Previously, Akhilesh Yadav had ignored Mulayam’s behenji-phobia and drove down to her residence to strike the deal that could bring the BJP down in 2019.
In the south, KTR took the initiative of forging a non-BJP non-Congress alliance by calling on Jagan Mohan Reddy, who is fighting the Chandrababu Naidu led TDP-Congress combine. The youth realpolitik is admirable since the youngsters have put their educational skills to the best use in spite of having a relatively less educated cadre and support base. However, India and Bharat are still synergetic: earthy leaders such as Stalin, Kumaraswamy and Tejashwi are leading from the front, too. Though Rahul is considered the nearest alternative to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it is a crop of new, young and articulate leaders which is likely to play a significant role in the making of the next national leader for the coming decade.
It is also a tragic commentary on the national parties that none of them has produced an alternative to new dynasts in over half a dozen big states, while their parents did. Rahul is taking longer than his father or his grandmother to capture the national mind and heart, but the brood of our regional leaders has become state leaders in a short span of time. The fact that 29-year-old Tejashwi is considered a formidable alternative to the experienced and erudite Nitish Kumar, and not any local Congress or BJP leader reflects the disconnect. Is Indian democracy for dynasty forever when politics is child’s play?
Follow him on Twitter @PrabhuChawla