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Inheritance Politics

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Jayant Chaudhary has taken over as the head of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, the political outfit led earlier by his father, the late Ajit Singh, and founded by the late Charan Singh, his grandfather. What else can be expected from a largely caste based regional outfit whose sole contribution to politics, presently, is reduced to ensuring it doesn’t rise beyond sending the scions to parliament or the state assembly. India, today, is full of such third generation politicians – somewhat more polished because of expensive education – but just as dependent on traditional dominance to get votes. So, while on the face of it, people may expect them to bring about the much needed changes, they are constrained by circumstances to follow the same old routine. Come election time, the appeal is to caste brethren and suppression of weaker sections’ votes in a multitude of ways. If the RLD dominates parts of Western UP, its mirror image, the Samajwadi Party, does so in central UP, and so on.

This privileged entry into politics also includes that of ‘celebrities’ who are elected by starry eyed voters but rarely display any leadership skills. Even in the South, which has a stronger and older tradition in this regard, the disillusionment has been slow to come. The ambition of Navjot Singh Sidhu, for instance, to acquire greater power in Punjab where leadership of the Congress can be up for grabs at any time, is limited by his inability to generate an emotional wave in his favour. So, he is casting about in radical Sikh politics, while at the same time wondering if the farmers’ agitation could pay some dividends.

The problem for all such lateral entries is that they do not have grassroots experience. The demanding politics of today requires judgement based on familiarity with fundamental issues. It is no longer possible to be an absentee public representative – it has increasingly become a 24-7 job. The role of amateurs is pretty limited, that too if they are marching to others’ orders. It is also important to be representative of one’s constituency while at the same time having transcended its limitations. This requirement limits the lifestyle of these political ‘playboys’ – the inheritance has to be protected but not at the cost of enjoying the perks.
Hopefully, the next ‘wave’ of politics – triggered by the present dominance of the successful ‘karyakarta’ – will trigger the necessary improvements in Indian politics. India’s present day challenges can no longer afford the solely self-serving coalitions of the past.