New Delhi: Dynasts are in focus yet again, thanks to Sachin Pilot’s rebellion against the Congress government in Rajasthan. While Pilot maintains that he will not join the BJP, there are already murmurs in the party about the entry of dynasts weakening its central plank against the dynastic Congress. The list of BJP’s dynast MPs is only growing.
The BJP currently has 303 members in the Lok Sabha and 85 in the Rajya Sabha. Of these 388, 45 MPs have dynastic linkages — around 11 per cent.
This number stands in stark contrast to the way Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah have often mocked the Congress and its members for their family connections in politics, such as calling Rahul Gandhi ‘shahzada’ (prince) and contrasting his ‘naamdaar’ (known for their name) status with their own ‘kaamdaar’ (known for their work).
A couple of days ago, BJP national president J.P. Nadda too attacked Rahul Gandhi, asking why the dynast wanted a weak India and a strong China. Many leaders in the Congress too privately complain about the party’s one-dynasty rule.
But the BJP has added several dynasts in the Rajya Sabha, including four out of 17 in the last round of polls held in June 2020. Currently, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Vivek Thakur, Udayanraje Bhosale, Leishemba Sanajoaba, Nabam Rebia, Neeraj Shekhar and Sambhaji Chhatrapati (nominated) are all Rajya Sabha members who belong to political families and are now associated with the BJP.
In the Lok Sabha too, the BJP has numerous dynasts in its camp — Anurag Thakur, Dushyant Singh, Poonam Mahajan, Pritam Munde, Pravesh Sahib Singh Verma, and B.Y. Raghavendra.
This trend reflects at the state level too — just three weeks ago, when Shivraj Singh Chouhan expanded his Madhya Pradesh cabinet, he included Om Prakash Saklecha, son of former CM Virendra Saklecha, as a minister. Chouhan’s cabinet also includes Vishvas Sarang, son of senior BJP leader Kailash Sarang.
Scindia is the son of the late Madhavrao Scindia, the former Congress leader and Union minister, and grandson of the late Vijayaraje Scindia, the Jana Sangh/Janata Party/BJP stalwart, and scion of the erstwhile royal family of Gwalior. Jyotiraditya Scindia became MP in 2002, soon after his father’s death, and also served as a Union minister under Manmohan Singh’s Congress-led UPA-2 government.
He rebelled against the Congress in March this year and joined the BJP with 22 MLAs who support him, toppling Kamal Nath’s government in Madhya Pradesh. Soon after, he received a Rajya Sabha ticket, and is now likely to be inducted into the Modi government in the next cabinet expansion.
Hailing from the erstwhile royal family of Satara in Maharashtra, Bhosale was a three-time Nationalist Congress Party MP before joining the BJP ahead of last year’s Maharashtra assembly elections. He is now a Rajya Sabha MP, having lost the Satara bypoll necessitated when he resigned from the NCP and joined the BJP. He has also served as a minister in the Shiv Sena-BJP Maharashtra government in the 1990s.
Bhosale’s cousin, MLA Shivendra Raje, also quit the NCP and joined the BJP.
Vivek is the son of five-time MP and renowned physician C.P. Thakur, who served as the Union health minister under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Thakur senior is regarded as an influential leader of the Bhumihar caste in Bihar, and Vivek’s Rajya Sabha ticket earlier this year is being seen in that context, with an eye on the assembly polls later this year.
The titular king of Manipur was elected on the lone Rajya Sabha seat in the state amid high drama, defeating the Congress candidate by four votes despite the BJP-led coalition government being in jeopardy at the time.
Upon his election, he said he would like to be addressed by his fellow MPs as ‘Maharaja’, because that is his “birthright”.
The son of former prime minister Chandra Shekhar was a sitting Rajya Sabha MP from the Samajwadi Party but switched to the BJP last year and became a member of the Upper House again.
Neeraj Shekhar fought three Lok Sabha elections on SP tickets, but didn’t get one in 2019, and joined the BJP in July last year.
A descendent of legendary Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji, Sambhaji got nominated to the Rajya Sabha nomination by the President on the BJP’s recommendation. He was the face of the Maratha reservation stir in 2016-17, and the BJP sent him to the Rajya Sabha to bring the agitating community into its fold.
Former speaker in the Arunachal Pradesh assembly from the Congress, whose brother Nabam Tuki served as CM, Rebia was elected to the Rajya Sabha on a BJP ticket in June 2020.
Even as Modi carried out his election campaign on the ‘naamdaar’ versus ‘kaamdaar’ plank, a number of dynasts were elected to the Lok Sabha on BJP tickets.
The list included Anurag Thakur, son of former Himachal Pradesh CM Prem Kumar Dhumal; Dushyant Singh, son of former Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje; B.Y. Raghavendra, son of four-time Karnataka CM B.S. Yediyurappa; Rajbir Singh, son of former UP CM Kalyan Singh; Pravesh Verma, son of former Delhi CM Sahib Singh Verma; Sanghamitra Maurya, daughter of UP cabinet minister Swami Prasad Maurya; Poonam Mahajan, daughter of late Union minister Pramod Mahajan; Pritam Munde, daughter of late Union minister Gopinath Munde; Jayant Sinha, son of former Union minister Yashwant Sinha; and Varun Gandhi, son of fellow BJP MP Maneka Gandhi.
The trend is very noticeable in UP and Maharashtra in particular. In the western state, Pankaja Munde, another daughter of Gopinath Munde, served as a minister in the Devendra Fadnavis government, while Raksha Khadse (daughter-in-law of former state revenue minister Eknath Khadse) and Sujay Vikhe Patil (son of prominent former Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil) are Lok Sabha MPs.
In UP, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s son Pankaj Singh is an MLA, while Rita Bahuguna Joshi, daughter of former CM Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna and former state Congress chief, was a minister in Yogi Adityanath’s government. Sharad Tripathi, son of state BJP president Ramapati Ram Tripathi was also an MP, but was denied a ticket after a video emerging showing him beating up a party MLA with a shoe.
‘What’s the harm?’
An IndiaSpend study published by BloombergQuint in March 2019 stated: “Since 1999, the Congress has had 36 dynastic members of parliament elected to the Lok Sabha, with the BJP not far behind with 31. In 1999, the beginning of the 13th Lok Sabha, 8 per cent of Congress MPs were either descended from or married to former MPs, only slightly ahead of the 6 per cent among the BJP. The most similar density of dynastic politicians was in 2009 when the Congress and BJP had 11 per cent and 12 per cent dynasts elected, respectively.”
Sanjay Kumar, director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, said every party believes in dynastic politics.
“It helps them to win elections easily with less effort, but in recent times, it doesn’t matter whether you are dynast or non-dynast — if the candidate has the potential to swing the arithmetic, the BJP has awarded them,” he said.
But Rajbir Singh, the Lok Sabha MP and son of Kalyan Singh, asked what was the harm in following one’s father’s profession.
“What is the harm in getting into politics if one’s father is also politician? We never question if a doctor’s son becomes a doctor or IAS officer’s son becomes an IAS officer. We never call them dynasts,” he told ThePrint.