Privately, many politicians justify dynastic culture by using words like ‘necessity’ and ‘practicality’.
As Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan readies to contest elections after nearly 13 years of unbroken rule, there are many sons who are also rising in the state.
For a party that likes to attack the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty for dominating the Congress, the ruling BJP is leading the pack in Madhya Pradesh. Nearly half-a-dozen second and third generation party leaders are taking up official positions in the BJP. Many are set to play a crucial backroom role in the state assembly polls scheduled in November this year.
Chouhan’s son Kartikey Singh is not even 25, the minimum age for contesting elections. But he has hit the road already.
“I challenge that roads in Madhya Pradesh are 100 per cent better than America. I have visited America and seen the roads there,” he told BJP workers in his father’s constituency Budhni this week. He added he is now in “an election mood”.
A graduate from Symbiosis Law School, Pune, Kartikey launched his political avatar in January and regularly addresses public meetings, courts religious and spiritual leaders even as he runs his flower shop and dairy business in upmarket areas of Bhopal.
His Facebook page introduces him as a member of the BJP Yuva Morcha and runs a quote by him: “Shastra ka gyan shastr ke gyan se adhik prabhavshaali hai; main yeh manta hoon ki gyanvan vyakti sarwadhik shaktishaali hai” (Knowledge of the scriptures is more powerful than knowledge of weapons. I believe a knowledgeable person is the most powerful).
Kartikey isn’t the only one
Senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia’s son Mahanaryaman is not old enough to contest assembly polls. Born in November 1995, Scindia junior is visible these days in Guna, Gwalior and Shivpuri, meeting small groups of local Congressmen. When Scindia recently visited Mahakal temple in Ujjain, seeking divine blessings for the coming assembly polls, Mahanaryaman followed him like a shadow. A Doon School graduate, he is currently on a summer break from his management school in the US and has even addressed a few public meetings.
Another son joining the list of babalog is Nakul Nath, son of Madhya Pradesh Congress president Kamal Nath. Nakul was sitting right behind his father at the Indira Gandhi Bhawan when the former union minister took charge as MPCC chief in Bhopal on 1 May 2018. There is speculation that the 30-something Boston University graduate may contest the elections from either Betul or Nath’s pocketborough Chhindwara.
Personable, Nakul leads a busy social life in Delhi, and is often seen dining at the Smoke House Grill at Greater Kailash. In Bhopal and Chhindwara, the Mandela shirt gets replaced with spotless white kurta pyjama with the angawastram of Congress colours around the neck. Few words in the local dialects, such as Bundelkhandi, Baghelkandi or in Gondi language, before the start of the speech are considered a big draw.
Nath’s critics within the Congress parivar often whisper that the absence of a night life in Madhya Pradesh is preventing the father-son duo from spending all their time in the poll-bound state.
The list is long
Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar’s son Devendra Pratap Singh, BJP national vice-president Prabhat Jha’s son Tushmul, party national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya’s son Akash, former state BJP chief Nand Kumar Chauhan’s son Harshvardhan Singh and the sons of state ministers Narottam Mishra (Sukaran) and Gopal Bhargava (Abhishek) are all part of the state BJP Yuva Morcha. It is, however, unclear how many would get the BJP ticket to contest.
Privately, many politicians justify dynastic culture by using words like “necessity” and “practicality”. Elections, they argue, require a lot of confidentiality, “I owe you” promises and trust. It is an open secret that even in assembly elections campaign expenditure far exceeds the Election Commission ceiling of Rs 25 lakh and calls for a lot of secrecy. The children of politicians also interact with influential caste leaders and influencers and help cut deals ahead of elections.
Sons and daughters find greater acceptability in the states. Regional parties headed by charismatic leaders often project their children because they are seen to offer continuity – as in the DMK, the Shiromani Akali Dal, the Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Samajwadi Party. The recent electoral success of Kairana Lok Sabha bypolls in Uttar Pradesh is attributed to Ajit Singh’s son “chhote choudhury” Jayant Choudhury.
Traditionally, Madhya Pradesh has been a fertile ground for “dynasty culture”. In the past, sons of several former chief ministers had joined the family profession. Some of these former chief ministers were Ravishankar Shukla (sons Shyama Charan Shukla and Vidya Charan Shuka, grandson Amitesh Shukla) Arjun Singh (son Ajay Singh) Motilal Vora (son Arun Vora), Govind Narain Singh (sons Yash and Dhruv Narain Singh), Digvijaya Singh (son Jaivardhan Singh, brother Laxman Singh) Kailash Joshi (son Deepak Joshi), Sunder Lal Patwa (sons Surendra Patwa) and Virendra Sakhlecha (sons Om Prakash Saklecha). Former state Congress chief Arun Yadav, now a special invitee in the Congress working committee (CWC), is the son of former state minister Subhash Yadav.
The Scindia family has had members on both sides of the political spectrum. While the family matriarch Vijaya Raje Scindia was a founder member of the BJP, her son Madhavrao Scindia left the Bharatiya Jana Sangh to join the Congress. Grandson Jyotiraditya Scindia is now continuing his father’s legacy, but her daughters Vasundhara Raje and Yashodhara Raje Scindia are firmly with the BJP. Vasundhara is currently Rajasthan chief minister while Yashodhara is a minister in the Chouhan cabinet.
Indian politics is truly a family business, and Madhya Pradesh election this year is likely to test the management ability of many children of politicians.
Rasheed Kidwai is an ORF visiting fellow, author and journalist. The views expressed here are his own