Dynasty rooted in Indian political tradition: Writer Zareer Masani
He grew up
in a family that aligned its destiny with the turbulent politics
of post-independence India and fell apart for it. London-based
biographer-historian Zareer Masani, who courted controversy with a
biography of Indira Gandhi, feels dynasty is deeply rooted in the
The old order changeth, yielding place to the new... Alfred
Tennyson's immortal words are playing out again in the dusty
heartlands of Uttar Pradesh where three sons are preparing to
carry on their political legacies. For Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh
Yadav and Jayant Chaudhary, out to prove they are worthy
inheritors, this could well be a make-or-break election.
Rahul Gandhi is son of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and the late
Rajiv Gandhi, a fifth generation leader of the Nehru-Gandhi
family; Akhilesh Yadav is son of Samajwadi Party (SP) chief
Mulayam Singh Yadav; Jayant Chaudhary is son of union minister and
Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Ajit Singh.
There's plenty in common. All three are leading their party's
campaign, all are MPs from Uttar Pradesh and are cutting their
teeth in this election for power in India's most populous state
currently ruled by Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Congress has tied up with the RLD to take on the BSP, SP and
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the grueling polls, spanning 403
assembly seats and being held over seven phases between Feb 8 and
Is this a continuation of dynastic politics, a sign of India's
unchanging feudal times or a sign of a resurgent youth willing to
give up all to herald change?
The opinions are sharp and divided.
Chaudhary, 33, who is mainly campaigning in western Uttar Pradesh
where his party is contesting most of its 47 seats, said his role
in the campaign should not be seen as sign of generational
"I don't think it is reflection of generational transition. He (Ajit
Singh) is president... Yes, I have a fair deal of responsibility,"
Chaudhary, who unlike Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav is
contesting the assembly election from Mathura, told IANS.
Chaudhary, whose grandfather Charan Singh was a former prime
minister, has been raising issues of land acquisition, corruption
and injustice to farmers. He said the fact that young leaders from
political dynasties were playing a role in the election reflected
"the sentiment on the ground as well".
Rahul Gandhi, 41, has a lot riding on the outcome of the election
in a state where the Congress has been out of power for almost 22
years and now has only 22 seats in the assembly. He has set a
hectic pace for himself, addressing over 100 rallies, and visiting
villages, interacting with farmers and Dalits in their homes.
For Akhilesh Yadav, 38, the electoral challenge is equally
daunting with the SP seen as the natural gainer of an
anti-incumbency sentiment. Relatively low profile, he has been
steadfast in his campaign at the grassroots level. Though
decisions in the SP are still taken by his father, he is credited
with reshaping the party's thinking by going beyond caste
The BJP was scathing and said it was not relying on dynasty to
deliver votes. "Their campaign is dynastic, ours is dynamic,"
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.
SP MP Mohan Singh did not agree.
"Where is the harm if they are are sons of leaders. They are going
through the struggle (to get votes)," Mohan Singh told IANS.
Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed said it was natural for parties to
give prominence to young leaders as majority of country's
population comprised people below the age of 35.
Political analysts added that dynastic politics was not specific
to a few states and young leaders leading the poll effort was a
According to Nisar-ul-Haq of Jamia Millia University, the youth
coming to the forefront of politics would result in greater thrust
"It is a very good trend. Power should come in the hands of the
youth... If the youth do not perform who else will," he said.
"Young leaders are talking of development. They are talking less
of traditional issues... There is definite change in political
discourse (in these elections)," said IGNOU's A.S. Narang.
Now to March 6, when the votes will be counted and the
effectiveness of the trio will be known to all.
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