Indian Dynasties

Political dynasties are as much a product of the age of television and mass media as of a tradition peculiarly Indian.

The comparison with Royalism is understandable, but Royalism itself is not a problem. One of the oldest democracies - Britain - continue to be unapologetically royalist and yet democratic.

However, dynasties arise because of media's obsession about dynasties! Why do we know so much about Chelsea Clinton? Or Jenna Bush? Are we not seeing a dynasty in America? Surely, Hilary Clinton is gifted and smart, but how about a Hilary Diane Rodham versus John McCain poll? Familiarity is an asset in modern democracy, and dynasties lead to familiarity.

Or, let's talk Pakistan. Bilawal Zardari changed his name to stake it out. Or, in every other society - Ghana and Kofi Annan sprang to my mind - where a familiar family name is dropped to achieve various political, financial and social goals.

I also wonder why dynasties in politics are such a bad thing when it is accepted practise in large corporations. One business leader told me that he believes his sons practised the art of public behaviour from the day they were born, and they are therefore well qualified to manage the affairs of his large, multi-billion dollar enterprise. Very true, but why does that not apply to politicians too?

However, I agree, when such dynastic succession tends to cripple the normal functioning of a meritocracy, the country gets less than what it deserves. New ideas and leaders with potential face an unfair obstacle - and progress becomes difficult. However, dynasties are not the only issue, the overall social mobility and VIP syndrome are bigger enemies of meritocracy. Let's say - by law - one bars Rahul Gandhi from entering politics. Would that stop our friendly neighbourhood civil servant act like he owns the estate? Or would it stop some junior opposition leader from delaying flights because he can't make it to the airport on time? Our democracy - as I keep saying - needs to shake off its 'babu-fat'. Dynasties will go on its own as we mature.


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