Is democracy under fierce assault by “Neo political dynasties” in India? Neo-Maharajahs are everywhere starting with Nehru-Gandhi dynasty in Delhi. High time it is to bid adieu to “Dynasts” rallying under the umbrella of “Mahaghatabandhan” to perpetuate “Kleptocracy” in future. Antithesis is dynasty and democracy. May be political science emeritus coin a new terminology: Dynastocracy.
By original conception, democracy was conceived as “of the people, by the people and for the people”. Such a form of democracy is utopian and inappropriate to the chemistry of the ‘Great Indian Society’. No wonder, it has been deviously hijacked by dynasties: “of the few; by the few; and, for the few”: Kleptocracy.
Ironic but true, the founding fathers – 200 Wise men - failed to take into consideration Montesquieu conclusion in The Spirit of Laws (1748): “Republics were best suited to the small countries; Limited Monarchies to the middle sized and more prosperous, and “Enlightened Despotism’s to large nations. In retrospect, “Chemistry” of societies in perpetual transformation must be determinant of political order best suited to realize nations full potential. So, it must spring from below; not from above.
In domestic political scenario today, democracy is on the defense, most aptly distorted and decaying. The problems vary from state to state and constituency to constituency. Most apt is the comparison of Indian politics to the dancing elephant: 'everyone for himself and god for us all,' as the elephant said when he danced among the chicken.' “Super Dynastic Rich” have replaced former “Monarchies” – nearly 538 monarchies in 1947 at the stroke of mid night hour.
Look at the ever expanding list of political dynasties in India: Nehru-Gandhis; Abdullahs (J & K); Scindias; Mulayam Singh Yadavs (UP); Badals (Punjab); Patnaiks (Orissa), Karunanidhis (Tamil Nadu), Chautalas (Haryana); Lalu Yadavs (Bihar), KCR (Telangana); Naidus and Reddys (Andhra Pradesh); Thackerays, Chavans, Pawars and Naiks (Maharashtra); Gogois of Assam; Gowdas and Kharges (Karnataka); and so on. Unlike in other democracies, daughters play key part of political dynasties in India. For example, Priyanka Gandhi, Supriya Sule, Kanimozhi, Kavita, and so on.
Ipso facto, “Political Grand Fraud Masters” – dynasties or neo-Maharajahs - are everywhere. There is 545 plus 250 (795) MPs – neo-Maharajah’s in both houses of the Parliament. Add to them, the total number of MLAs and MLCs in states and union territories – 4215 MLAs plus 7 states having MLCs with other States wanting to create them. Also, there are others at the lower end of the spectrum of democracy – Zilla Parishads and Mandals.
Today, democracy virtually is on the brink of collapse: dynastic, corrupt and inefficient. Democracy in practice is imposed from top by few autocrats (High Commands), masquerading as democrats and hijacked by criminals with all other institutions toeing their line. The evidence of “I-Me-Myself” obsession afflicting dynasties is almost absolute and pervasive.
Voters are primarily responsible and accountable for such a heinous growth of dynastic politics - family-based politics. Not just the nucleus family; husband, wife and kids but the extended family, and the extension of the extended family are a reality. Biradri-based politics will only go away once biradris will go away. No need to apportion the entire blame on numerous “Dynasties” that proliferated after 1950 on political leadership.
Factually, only 3% of India’s present MPs represent political dynasties founded by pre-democratic aristocratic monarchies of the pre-1947 era. Due to reservations, Indian democracy has become more broad based and representative. New dynasties have acquired political office through the electoral process and sponsored the entry of other family members. Sharing political power to new social groups entails transfer of power to their descendants. Now, the process appears irreversible.
What is disconcerting is 29% of the current Indian Parliament consists of those whose family members – fathers, mothers, siblings, husbands, wives, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins or in-laws – preceded them in politics. At least another 5% had family members either enter politics simultaneously, or follow them. 34% of parliamentarians with family ties are a rather large number for any democracy.
Of course, all regions and religions have produced a fair share of parliamentarians with dynastic ties. Similarly, all social categories are associated with significant proportions of such parliamentarians: 66% of Muslim parliamentarians, 25% of parliamentarians from Scheduled Caste seats, 28% of parliamentarians from Scheduled Tribe seats and 34% of the rest, have family ties.
Almost all new regional political parties are founder parties that sustains around the personality and ideology of its leader. And, kinship - Family links - often continues to play an important role in determining the ruling class. For their children, it is the easy path to prosperity and power. Relatives continue the political project begun by elders in repressive regimes.
What must disturb every voter are the grand lifestyles led by “Dynastic Neo-Maharajahs/Maha Ranis” in Delhi and States. For example, none has asked questions about the gargantuan expenditure since 1947 at the cost of the tax-payers incurred on “Gandhi” dynasty in Delhi: 2-places plus 1. Virtually today, all of them have enjoyed free-services for their exclusive grand life-styles – fortress type houses, gunmen, fleet of escort vehicles and so on. Similarly, the life-styles of “Dynastic leaders” in the States went unquestioned. Leaders like G L Nanda, former Prime Minister who died in pecuniary a (almost forgotten) and, perhaps Manohar Parikkar, are exceptions.
The causes of dynastic politics lie in the structure of the democratic institutions: the state and Electoral Processes. The large return associated with state office is responsible for the emergence of dynastic politics.
People must remember that democracy is not a self-sustaining machine. If people earnestly want to save democracy, they must not allow fractures/fault lines in society — caste, race and communal divide, injustice, economic inequality— to damage India from within based on jingoistic rhetoric spreading hatred and fear. And, people must opt for morally correct leaders to advance democracy. Voters must not squander yet another opportunity to deliver decisive verdict against “Dynastic Leadership” in all political parties, so that “Real Democracy” is saved from total decline.
Elections provide an opportunity to people to opt for stability and decisive leadership to traverse the nation on the right course with credible policies – political, social, economy, technology, diplomacy, and technology and security forces – to strengthen national power.
Let me briefly highlight in outline the story of democracy in India. In retrospect, being a 5000 year old civilization, it is not easy to shed inherited “dynastic monarchy” as the political order.
Ironic, the founding fathers failed dismally to take into account the American luminary Joseph Story’s comments in 1883 on democracy in USA: “The structure has been erected by architects of consummate skill and fidelity; its foundations are solid; its compartments are beautiful, as well as useful; ….. And its defenses are impregnable from without. It may, nevertheless, perish in an hour by the folly, or corruption, or negligence of its only keeper, THE PEOPLE. Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens. They fall, when the wise are banished from the public councils, because they dare to be honest, and the profligate are rewarded, because they flatter the people, in order to betray them.” Sadly, Indian voters, due to their phenomenal gullibility, are squarely responsible for banishing wise and honest people into dustbin of history.
At the cost of inviting the wrath of those upholding the Constitution, the blame squarely lies with the founding fathers – over 200 personalities of consummate skills and fidelity - mostly idealistic who chose parliamentary democracy with “first-past-the-post” method of elections. The emphasis in the Preamble is quite specific: supremacy of “We the People”. Furthermore, the end objectives were quite specific: “ensuring socio-economic justice” – good of the society or its welfare and security.
Yet “Dynastic Politics” flourished. Why? Had the 200-wise men restricted the terms for the Prime Minister at the Central level and the Chief Minister to two terms only, then the transformation of democracy into “Dynostocracy” could have been avoided. Even they did not impose age-restrictions for elected representatives to 70-years.
Lack of understanding of democracy riddles, most exciting and complex, are real. Plato, Socrates’ disciple, had pontificated over 2300 years ago (Republic, VIII, Sections 562b-563e) “democracy ruins itself by excess of democracy. …Mob rule is a rough sea for the ship of state to ride; every wind of oratory stirs up the waters and deflects the course. The upshot of such a democracy is tyranny or autocracy.” The ongoing negative campaigning by opposition parties is contra democracy spirit.
Will Durant in his book “Pleasures of Philosophy” published in 1929 stated: “democracy without education means hypocrisy without limitation; it means the degradation of statesmanship into politics; it means the expensive maintenance, in addition to the ruling class, of a large parasite class of politicians, whose function it is to serve the rulers and deceive the ruled”.
Rousseau stated “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains”. Freedom and order cannot co-exist. Freedom promotes anarchy; whereas order breeds tyranny. Robert A Dahl had raised the issue “Is a third transformation of democratic limits and possibilities now on the horizon?” Polyarchy is his prescription. Dahl succinctly identified the need for the new paradigm to cater to developments of Technology Civilization Age. “Democracy results in triumph of mediocrity’ is yet another thought.
As a result of glaring loopholes in the system, India’s parliamentary democracy, socialism and secularism (national values) have developed distortions. Talk of socialism is hypocrisy; Crony capitalism is real; social integration remains utopia what with secularism threatened by communalism; and vote bank politics of appeasement based on caste and communal lines in pursuit of power to drive irretrievable wedge in the society.
Naturally, “Dynasties” exploited loopholes available in the electoral processes during the past 68 years in the system to perpetuate status quo ante – dynastic neo-monarchy. Ironically “Neo-Maharajahs” – bunch of self serving oligarchs or pseudo aristocrats – have hijacked democracy.
With democracy developing many distortions hijacked by dynasties, most aptly, mutilated beyond recognition, subverted and sabotaged, unprecedented disillusionment and disappointment among people is spreading. If so, democracy is on self destructive path: “A good form of government may hold rotten materials together for some time, but beyond a certain pitch, even the best constitution will be ineffectual, and slavery must ensue with few bad men among them.”
Lesson of India’s history is simple. Successive Indian monarchies got destroyed due to internal treachery and sabotage that paved the path for external aggressors to destroy by invasions. If we falter now to set the course of democracy on its right path, its eventual self destruction is inevitable.
What worries most are dynast leaders and their spokespersons penchant for Goebbes'an lies: "Repeat a lie a thousand times and it becomes the truth". Quite a few are congenital and compulsive liars who excel in spreading fake or fraud news. Thomas Macaulay, pioneer of English education in India, stated “Indians are fools and we can easily play with their emotions with one simple rule - "Repeat a lie a thousand times and it becomes the truth."
In retrospect, the current state of Indian politics is truly bizarre - at odds with the nation’s founding principles. Entrenched leadership, old and senile, is rigidly bent upon maintaining status quo ante (dynastic propagation) for foisting their progeny. Political families have mastered the science of exploiting systems imperfections to remain in power for eternity. Many children of successful politicians, quite often, opt for politics as profession irrespective of merit. If one dynasty falls, another dynasty rises.
However, the flip side of political dynasties provides a different perspective. The justification of Neo-Maharajah’s is that even their children have to win elections to get into the system. Parents can only ensure they become party candidates. Ultimately, people decide their fate. Next, they play a legitimate role in national affairs – either good or bad. None can deny that a dynasty confers on a political party substantial advantage – legitimacy, recognition, mass appeal, and most importantly extensive network. Political experience is vital to strategize for the long term because they're mindful of the family name and the clan's political future. Even if they enrich their families in the process, as they often do, they take better care of their constituents as well.
Next, pro-dynasty cronies strongly believe that shorter tenures often yield to populist demands and shun difficult but necessary reforms. On the flip-side, longer tenure allows a legislator to accumulate political capital - financial or human capital, name recognition, or contacts.
The darker side of dynastic politics probably outweighs the positives. Ipso facto, it is the “High Command or the core or coterie or caucus’ culture that is contra democracy in spirit and sense. They are better known than their party. Hardly, there is scope for internal debate and dissent. Most decisions are taken behind closed doors flocked by Faithfull’s, sycophants or “Yes” men acting like rubber stamps. Also, they live in “royal style” in New Delhi and other State capital bungalows at tax payers’ money. And they are held in demi-God status.
In hindsight, dynastic majority are professional mercenaries. Sacrifice does not exist in their dictionaries. They crave for power, wealth, status, perks and privileges. Many of them are not in politics profession to serve people. They shift loyalties to whichever party offers better prospects.
Furthermore, dynastic politics blocks the entry of new candidates and makes elections less competitive. But, the real damage to democracy from dynastic politics comes from the violation of democratic ideals. A ruling class based on birth is a prima facie violation of these ideals.
Most disturbing, they indulge in acrimonious behavior – rushing into the well, tearing papers, breaking mikes etc - inside the “Temple of Democracy”, which makes a mockery of democracy. Is it carry forward of confrontational politics in streets by all parties or is it schizophrenia on display? Confrontational politics over “Rafael”, CBI vs. CBI, and so on are bound to take center stage.
In sum, political dynasties are a product of democracy itself and cannot be wished away. Of course, their prevalence is a violation of merit and competence as they restrict the best, honest and most competent into politics. How long political dynasties will survive in India? After all, the growing educated middle-class is challenging dynasty politics. Next, the question arises whether dynastic government would be fitting for the world's largest democracy and their effect on effective governance?
Political sages’ cautions or warnings are quite implicit and explicit. They forebode dangerous portends for the survival of parliamentary democracy based on first-past-the-post electoral system due to “dynastic politics” hell bent upon “I-Me-Myself” or self-centric obsession. If democracy - liberty, equality and fraternity - is to consolidate and advance, people will have to banish the “Neo-Maharajahs” pretenders masquerading as leaders from politics, which is the only escape route.
WAKE UP “We the People of India”; WAKE UP and banish “Dynasts” from Indian politics.