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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 40, September 19, 2009

Andhra also going the Dynastic Way?: The Miracle of Indian Democracy Gets Further Strengthened!

Monday 21 September 2009, by N A Karim

Politics everywhere, particularly in liberal democracies is all about getting power and retaining it as long as it is possible. In India where the feudal culture is still strong, the power thus gained is cleverly passed on to sons and daughters and even widows of the deceased who have been groomed for the job or not, whether they deserve it or not.

This tradition began from the very beginning with Motilal Nehru as a shrewd and successful lawyer who gifted his fabulously built Anand Bhavan in Allahabad to the then Indian National Congress and entrusted his aristocratically brought up and expensively educated charming only son to Mahatma Gandhi who was the sole arbiter of national politics. In national politics this first political family still holds its sway through succession almost uninterrupted.

Now this tradition has spread to almost all State politics where in varying degrees it has taken roots. In a few States, sons and daughters are fixed in key positions even when the patriarch is alive. Others are elevated on sympathy wave to high political positions where they entrench themselves and eventually transmit power to their offsprings as a matter of right.

Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh who was tragically killed in a chopper crash, was also brought up in the latter-day Congress culture but with a rare political charisma and remarkable public relations skill. Therefore, his sudden untimely death in extremely tragic circumstances evoked unprecedented Statewide emotions. As a strong leader who recaptured the State for the Congress from two formidable rivals, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the influential Communists, and consolidated the base of the Congress on a seemingly unshakable manner, his sudden departure sent shock waves in the Central leadership of the Congress. The political future of the State with the two old party formations and the new outfit of the tinsel world hero, Chiranjeevi, is rather unpredictable. This anxiety might have persuaded the Central leadership of the Congress to fly to Hyderabad in full strength to reassure the Congressmen of the Sate of a successor of YSR and to demonstrate the High Command’s solidarity with the State unit.

From all indications, it is almost certain the late Chief Minister’s businessman son, Jaganmohan Reddy, is likely to succeed particularly because there is nearly a dozen equally strong claimants to the throne. Jaganmohan was elected in the 2009 Lok Sabha for the first time from Kadappa. Though a successful businessman with of course considerable help from his Chief Minister father, his political experience is just more than a hundred days in the Lower House. However, the powerful business lobby seems to have rallied round his candidacy as his coming to his father’s position will be far more helpful in promoting its interests.

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But politically the most distressing fact is that Andhra Pradesh is also going in the growing hereditary modes of political succession as it has already in several other States of the country. This makes Indian democracy a mockery. In the present first-past the-post kind of electoral system and the socio-economic conditions of the electorate it has been proved on many an occasion that it is not very difficult to consolidate political power with the help of the now-widely-used money or muscle power or a few political gimmicks unless the incumbent is so stupid as to fritter away the power he or she inherited. Even if he is so, if there are good party managers even a figurehead can be propped up in the powerful position and manipulated easily for party, group and personal interests.

This is the secret of the miracle of Indian democracy. Our Prime Minister, who has entered the second term of his career, has never in his life faced an electorate in a popular electoral contest. Therefore there is no wonder that the son of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy is being pitch-forked into the chair of the Chief Minister. At least he is one who has been elected to Parliament on a popular vote.

The loud orchestrated demand to make the son, Jaganmohan Reddy, his father’s political successor even before the incumbent’s body was laid to rest has hurt the political prestige, more than human sentiments of the High Command, that they have been completely ignored by the local Congressmen. So they stopped the clamour of the Congressmen with a stern frown. However, the Central leadership of the Congresal will ultimately agree to Jaganmohan Reddy’s succession as there is a long line of assorted claimants to the throne, the selection of one of which might soon upset the apple-cart in Andhra. Jaganmohan’s Reddy’s unequivocal statement that the High Command (please read Sonia Gandhi) will decide his father’s successor, shows the lasting strength of the foundation of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

N.A. Karim is a former Professor of English and an erstwhile Pro Vice-Chancellor, University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram.

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