Rajat Sharma

Why Modi said, dynastic politics is a threat to Indian democracy

rajat-sirTo celebrate Constitution Day on Friday, the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla organized a function in the Central Hall of Parliament, and invited the President and Prime Minister to address. The Speaker had sent invitations to leaders of all political parties, but at the instance of Congress, 14 opposition parties including Trinamool Congress, Shiv Sena, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, DMK, Left Parties, Rashtriya Lok Dal and Aam Aadmi Party boycotted the function.

While most of these parties said they respected the Constitution, they said, they were boycotting the function to register their protest against Modi government. These parties alleged that the government was undermining the Constitution, by subverting every single institution, which, they said, are under “constant attack”.

At the function, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit out at the opposition parties. He said parties controlled by a single family for generations posed a threat to the health of Indian democracy. “India is heading towards a crisis caused by political parties controlled by dynasties and the family controlling the entire party system is the biggest threat to a healthy democracy”, Modi said.

The Prime Minister explained his point of view by saying, there is nothing wrong if several members of a family join politics, get elected to assemblies and Parliament and become ministers, but if a political party depends on dynastic politics, or if a single family controls the party, it puts an end to internal democracy in the party. This, undoubtedly, is a danger to a healthy democracy and should be a matter of concern for the nation, Modi said.

The Prime Minister said, “from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, in most of the states, dynastic politics is dominant. This is not good for Indian democracy.”

Modi is right. If you leave aside the Left parties, most of the national and regional parties are controlled by single families, since generations. Everybody knows about dynastic domination in the Congress, but not a single Congress leader is brave enough to accept this as a fact. It was left to the Congress leader in Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge to reply. Kharge said, “Modi was probably referring to the Gandhi family. We must know the sacrifices made by Gandhi family for the nation. And since 1989, no one from Gandhi family has become Prime Minister. So, Modi should not give homily to the Congress.”

Kharge is right when he says that no one from Gandhi family became PM since 1989, but the issue that Modi raised was not about PM, but internal democracy. Since 1998, when Sitaram Kesri was forcibly removed from his chamber in AICC office as party president, it is 10, Janpath which has been occupying this room. Sonia Gandhi replaced Kesri as President, and she remained as party president . In 2017, her son Rahul Gandhi was anointed party president. Rahul stayed in this post for two years, but after open dissensions in the party following electoral defeats, Rahul quit, and it is now Sonia Gandhi who is the interim president. Preparations are now afoot to hand over the reins to Rahul Gandhi again.

Modi is right when he says that most of the regional parties from Kashmir to Kanyakumari are controlled by single families.

In Kashmir, National Conference is controlled by the late Sheikh Abdullah’s family, ranging from Dr Farooq Abdullah to Omar Abdullah, JKPDP is controlled by Mehbooba Mufti, daughter of the late Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab is controlled by Badal family, Samajwadi Party in UP is controlled by Yadav family with Akhilesh Yadav as party chief, Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar is controlled by Lalu Prasad Yadav, his wife and his sons, Shiv Sena in Maharashtra is controlled by Thackeray family, NCP in Maharashtra is controlled by Sharad Pawar’s family, Trinamool Congress in Bengal is controlled by Mamata Banerjee and her nephew, ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu is controlled by the late M. Karunanidhi’s family members, and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha is controlled by Shibu Soren’s son Hemant Soren.

To put it briefly, it will be difficult to find parties in states which are not controlled by a single family. But when a mirror is showed to these parties, efforts are made to break the mirror itself.

Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Badal reacted by saying, “I can show you hundred of examples where BJP leaders have their sons in influential positions”. The most interesting reaction came from Maharashtra NCP chief Jayant Patil. In his party, Sharad Pawar is the supremo, his daughter Supriya Sule, MP, occupies second position, Pawar’s nephew and Maharashtra Deputy CM Ajit Pawar comes third, and in the fourth position comes Ajit Pawar’s son Parth Pawar. Jayant Patil said, “if party workers do not have any objections (to Pawar family) then why should others object? If people elect members of a single family, what is wrong?”

It was left to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar to support what Modi said. He said, “dynastic politics may succeed for a short period, but later people reject such dynasties”.

Narendra Modi has created a situation in which not a single person in India can allege that there is dynastic politics in BJP. Forget key positions, BJP leaders think a hundred times before seeking tickets for their family members. With Modi at the helm, nobody in BJP can aspire for key positions only because he or she has a powerful father or mother.

A shrewd and astute politician like Nitish Kumar kept his family members away from active politics. No one can say that Janata Dal (United) is controlled by a family. But in most of the regional parties, sons or daughters of party supremo consider it their divine right to lead the party.

Lalu Prasad Yadav’s family is a classic example. When Lalu Yadav was arrested, he resigned as CM but continued to be party president. Lalu appointed his wife Rabri Devi as chief minister. When he was convicted in fodder scam and was jailed, he continued to remain party chief, despite being disqualified from contesting elections. He fielded both his sons in elections and made them ministers. What could be more shameful for a democracy?

On Friday, Modi raised another issue. He warned against the “tendency of forgetting and glorifying convicted corrupt people”. The allusion was clearly towards Lalu Prasad Yadav. Modi said, “after dynastic politics, corruption is the second biggest evil for a democracy. It is surprising that leaders who have been convicted on charges of corruption, are being supported by other parties. What will the younger generation learn after seeing such instances? When young people find that a leader convicted of corruption is being accorded respect, and the leader becomes active again in politics, people will start believing that to indulge in corruption is not a crime. This will send a wrong message to the nation.”

Though Modi did not name Lalu Prasad Yadav, it is clear whom he meant. Lalu Yadav is a convict, who after being released on bail from jail, campaigned for his party candidates in the recent Bihar assembly byelections. He has again become active in national politics. He maintains regular contacts with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar calls on him. Lalu Yadav attends meeting of opposition leaders. To put it briefly, Lalu Yadav has been politically rehabilitated.

Modi’s message must surely have fallen on deaf ears of those leaders who boycotted Friday’s event. Their sole objective was to show Modi in poor light. The event was not organized by Modi, it was organized by the Lok Sabha Speaker. Invitation cards were send to these parties two days in advance. Congress leaders said, they were invited “ only to listen to Modi’s speech, and due respect was not accorded to the opposition”.

The fact remains that there were two chairs on the dais for Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, and Mallikarjun Khadge, opposition leader in Rajya Sabha. When both of them chose not to attend, the two chairs had to be removed. The allegation by Congress leaders has no basis. The opposition should understand that the Indian Constitution does not belong to a single party or government. It belongs to the nation.

The responsibility of protecting the dignity of Constitution not only devolves on Prime Minister Modi, but also on leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee and others. The responsibility of protecting the Constitution is also mine and yours, that is, of every Indian citizen. Therefore, the opposition’s decision to boycott the Constitution Day function was not proper.

The Constitution gives us freedom of expression, protects our fundamental rights, and promises justice to all. The Parliament, executive and judiciary must join hands and ensure that the Constitution is upheld, come what may. The executive must ensure that the benefits of welfare schemes reach all sections of people, judiciary must ensure that that judicial process must not be so long that the poor are deprived of justice, and Parliament must use its productive time for enacting legislations and refrain from wasting time through pandemonium.

This, in essence, is the message of Constitution Day, the day on which the founding fathers signed our Constitution in 1949.

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