Years ago, when I was talking to an European friend of mine on the then imminent elections in India, I was surprised to discover that my friend thought Indira Gandhi , the then Prime Minister of India was related to Mahatma Gandhi. Later I learnt that he was not the only non-Indian to think so. Leave alone non-Indians, even a substantial number of rural Indians thought so. The benefit of such misunderstanding has been ample for the Nehru Family. Today the Nehru Family is known as Gandhi-Nehru dynasty, though the name 'Gandhi' in this case pertained to Indira Gandhi's husband Feroz Gandhi who had nothing to do with Mahatma Gandhi.
Gandhi-Nehru dynasty has given so far three Prime Ministers to India. Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. Sonia Gandhi , who controls today India's biggest Political Party, the Congress Party , almost became the Prime Minister in 2004. Her son Rahul Gandhi is being widely thought of as the next Prime Minister, if the Congress Party wins the coming 2009 elections.
Karunanidhi, the four-time Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu has founded a powerful political dynasty. Stalin, one of his sons, is being groomed to be the next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Karunanidhi's another son Azagiri has been a DMK party strongman of the southern parts of the state. It should not be a great surprise, if he is soon given a vey senior position in the party, as a compensation for missing the chief minister's chair. Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi is a member of the Indian Parliament and an announcement of her inclusion in the Central Cabinet is expected any time.
Deve Gowda Dynasty
Deve Gowda, Prime Minister for a year in the mid-nineties has been working hard to see that his sons get established in Karnataka politics. His son Kumaraswamy was chief Minister for 18 months. His other son Revanna, angry and unhappy about having lost a previous opportunity of becoming the Chief Minister to his younger brother, is Chief Minister-in-waiting. Deve Gowda does not think twice about toppling any Government that survives on his support, if it does not suit the political interests of his family.
Lalu Prasad Dynasty
When Lalu Prasad Yadav had to quit as Chief Minister of Bihar due to the corruption charges against him, he brought in his wife Rabri Devi, a housewife as his successor. Rabri Devi's brothers are already playing important roles in Lalu Yadav's RJD party. The latest buzz is that Lalu Yadav's son is entering politics to carry on the family's stranglehold over the party and possible positions in the Government.
Mulayam Singh Dynasty
Mulayam Singh Yadav was Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India more than once. His brother has been occupying the second or third most important position in his party Samajwadhi party. Mulayam Yadav's son has been a Member of Parliament for a few years and is the likely future Chief Minister if the Samajwadhi Party comes to power ever again.
The rulers of the former princely state of Gwalior, the Scindias have managed to carve out a powerful niche in Indian Politics. The Chief Minister of Rajasthan Vasundara Devi belongs to this clan. Her nephew is a member of Parliament and her sister is a member of a state Legistative Assembly. This dynasty has been intelligent enough to create roots in both the major Political Parties of the country, the Congress and the BJP.
Democracy or Dynocracy?
Besides the above dynasties, there are others in the making such as Sharad Pawar dynasty, Patnaik dynasty, Badal dynasty, Ramadass dynasty etc. While the Congress Party was the original innovator of this practice, the Regional Political Parties quickly caught on to this and have been the main spirit behind the spread of this quasi-feudal system. Well, however uncomfortable this development is to blue-blooded democrats, one can not dub this practice as totally undemocratic, since the succession from one generation to the next of these dynasties has the endorsement of the Indian people through voting in the elections. India has invented a new system of governance which is a hybrid of Democracy and Monarchy. India has always spiced its imports with indigenously-grown additives, be it the American Burger or the English Language. Democracy is no exception.