The great Indian political family


Dynastic politics is the leitmotif as political sparring begins ahead of the Tamil Nadu assembly election nears. Union home minister Amit Shah fired the first salvo at the DMK, but M K Stalin countered with a list of the BJP’s political families.

When Stalin’s son Udhayanidhi started his poll campaign, chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami again brought up the topic of dynastic politics. “If members of a family get power and position in a party and government, family interest will get prioritised and public welfare will take a backseat. We, the AIADMK, prioritise welfare schemes for the people,” said AIADMK Villupuram district secretary and minister C Ve Shanmugam. But the AIADMK’s party coordinator and deputy CM O Panneerselvam is also accused of promoting his son P Ravindhranath Kumar, who contested and won the Lok Sabha elections from their home turf of Theni.

The DMK, for its part, is unperturbed by accusations that it is promoting dynastic politics. The party has been promoting Udhayanidhi Stalin and Kanimozhi as star campaigners and harking back to the “golden rule” of party and family patriarch Karunanidhi. “Earlier dynastic politics was treated like a Columbus discovery. We have given enough replies. The sons of leaders, Sheikh, Mulayam, Biju, Devegowda and YSR have become chief ministers. Those with talent alone could rise and survive. People will take to great heights those showing real interest in politics, and ready to sacrifice life for public welfare,” said DMK general secretary S Durai Murugan. The party MPs Dayanidhi Maran, Kalanidhi Veeraswamy, Goutham Sigamani, Tamizhachi Thangapandian and K M Kadhir Anand ride the popularity of families.

The situation is not very different in the Congress TN unit. Last week the party put out a list of office bearers, vice-presidents, general secretaries and secretaries after a gap of seven years, and the prominent nominees were sons of former TNCC presidents, K V Thangkabalu, E V K S Elangovan, S Thirunavukkarasar and late Era Anbarasu for the general secretary post. Ironically, Sivaganga MP Karti, son of former Union minister P Chidambaram hit out at the leadership for “jumbo committees” and said that none would have any authority.

TNCC president K S Alagiri finds no fault with dynastic politics. “In a family there is usually no shifting allegiances to other parties. The children try to follow in the footsteps of their elders. But postings are a recognition of the individual’s work. Capability and hard work decides rise in the ranks,” he said.

Last year following the death of MP H Vasanthakumar, his son Vijay Vasanth was appointed Congress general secretary. The young scion feels the barbs of nepotism are only valid if a person is undeserving. “When sons of lawyers and doctors can take up their parents’ profession, why should a politician’s son be questioned? The acceptance of people is important. The party considers the individual’s strength before taking a call on appointments,” said Vijay, who says he worked with his father and picked up political insights. The actor is also touted as the Congress candidate for Kanyakumari LS bypoll when it takes place.

Though there is no denying people have voted to power kin of politicians, family politics does carry a burden of bias. “In parties like the BJP at the Centre or the AIADMK in the state, the top leaders do not have political heirs and so make an issue out of it. The fact also remains that in this era of political defection, loyalty also becomes a major concern. When Dheeran and Dalit R Ezhilmalai left the party at the crucial stage, PMK leader S Ramadoss was forced to bring in his son, Anbumani,” said political analyst N Sathiya Murthy.

It is a given that family members of many veterans across the political spectrum will seek poll tickets. In such a case, charges of dynastic politics will cancel out one another.

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Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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