The main takeaway from the past Lok Sabha elections is Dynasty is Nasty. Embedded in the double helix of political fortune is the irony of immortality as dynasts depart while the principle of dynasty stays immortal. Does Verdict 2019 signal the death of dynasty in Indian public life? Why does the number of political progeny exceed that of defeated candidates? Ballot booty lies in the eyes of the beholder. For Congress bashers, Mandate 2019 damns genetic ascendency.
It also marks the final fall of the Nehru-Gandhi clan. In two successive innings, its fourth generation team led by Rahul Gandhi failed to score a century in the vote game. In 2014, it collapsed at 44; five years later it was clean bowled at 52. Undoubtedly the blame lies with the captain just as an impossible victory would have laid the laurels at his door.
Did the Congress lose because it was led by a Gandhi scion? Has the party becoming increasingly irrelevant in legislature because voters have lost faith in the Family? The answer is a midway conundrum. The fact that it secured over 120 million ballots, the second highest after the BJP, indicates that the party is still sucking oxygen. It got the drubbing it deserved thanks to its choice of candidates who lacked an alternative agenda for governance.
Above all, Rahul’s strategy to counter positivity with negativity flopped. His contrived campaign confidence stemmed from his faith in genetic magic. To that extent a Gandhi has betrayed the Congress. But Rahul wasn’t the only dynast to be rejected from personal pocket boroughs like Amethi, which had been held by the Gandhis for four decades.
It wasn’t all child’s play for over 300 candidates who contested under the flags of various parties. Over 30 per cent of new MPs are dynasts. Ironically, the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made ‘dynasty’ their primary focus of attack on the Congress. Yet the maximum number of victorious dynasts won on the lotus symbol. On the other hand, the dynasty-led Congress couldn’t ensure the parliamentary victory of even 10 per cent of its gene pool.
According to a profile analysis of 4,807 MPs since 1952 by the web portal IndiaSpend, both national parties have been fielding sons, daughters and relatives of its leaders. In 2009, the former got 12 per cent of its representatives elected as against 11 per cent of the latter.
The number of power kids in Indian Parliament and state Assemblies has been growing for three decades. The trend was started by the Congress. Taking the cue from the top where the presidentship of the party inevitably went to a Gandhi, ageing local leaders opted for their flesh and blood instead of fresh blood. The dynastic domination of Indian politics was further expanded by the growth of caste and religion-led parties in the states.
As the Congress party’s mojo and market declined, outfits floated by Sharad Pawar, Bal Thackeray, Lalu Yadav, Ajit Singh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Devi Lal, Chandrashekar Rao, Chandrababu Naidu, H D Deve Gowda, Ram Vilas Paswan, Anupriya Patel, Karunanidhi, the Badals and the Abdullahs acquired formidable bargaining power in the formation of Central governments. At one time, over 60 per cent of the seats in state legislatures were held by 21 political families.
But the past Lok Sabha election delivered a strong blow to DNA dreams except in Tamil Nadu. The maximum number of dynasts sponsored by the Congress lost. Jyotiraditya Scindia lost in Guna, his family seat in Madhya Pradesh, which had been theirs for 14 elections. Prominent political successors like Deepender Hooda, son of former Haryana chief minister; Sushmita Dev, daughter of the late Union Minister Santosh Mohan Dev; Milind Deora, son of former Union Minister and Congress treasurer Murli Deora; Vaibhav Gehlot, son of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot; Shruti Choudhry, granddaughter of former Haryana Chief Minister Devi Lal and over a dozen relatives of Congress leaders were trounced by the saffron surge.
Even regional relatives were blown away by the Modi storm. Kavitha, daughter of Telangana CM Chandrashekar Rao, lost to a BJP candidate. Misa Bharti, daughter of Lalu Prasad; Nikhil Kumaraswamy, son of the incumbent Karnataka Chief Minister; Nara Lokesh, son of Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu; two nephews of former UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav; Dimple Yadav, wife of Akhilesh Yadav; Ajit Singh and son Jayant and a nephew of Sharad Pawar also bit the dust. Interestingly, BJP babies trooped into Parliament with huge victory margins—Poonam Mahajan, daughter of former Union Minister Pramod Mahajan; Anurag Thakur, son of former Himachal chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal; Jayant Sinha, son of former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha and Dushyant Singh son of Vasundhara Raje, former Rajasthan Chief Minister were on the list.
Their comfortable victory indicates that voters are not necessarily averse to dynastic succession. So, why did the sons and daughters of the Congress and other Opposition parties fail to score a significant strike rate? The quality of the top leadership and their social and economic background are to blame. A large number of political children backed by the BJP belong to modest, middle and lower class families or were groomed by the RSS school of thought. They had witnessed the rise and fall of their parents who had a deep connect with their constituents.
They were active participants in political activity, too. But they got leadership lessons from icons like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Modi. During the past five years, Modi singled out the Gandhis to drill in the point that the bane of the Congress was its dynastic leadership. The BJP is aware that without a Gandhi, its Enemy No.1 would collapse or disintegrate as its upper caste and middle-class support base shifts to saffron. The Demolish Gandhi campaign has paid rich dividends.
The BJP has wrested all states where the Congress had ruled for decades. It snatched over 250 of 300 seats which were once won palatines of the Congress. Modi has also established that a party led by a dynast cannot guarantee the success of other dynasts in New India. But an organisation led by a commoner can ensure the glamour of royalty and Harvard hurrahs to those who endorse Modi vision and Mission. This victory of the Modi-ites means much more than the mere minimisation of the Gandhi family. Democracy has rejected a Namdar-led Congress Dynasty. It has voted for a Saffron Dynasty led by a kamdar.