New Delhi: Blame it on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unrelenting attack on dynasty politics. Many veteran politicians, especially incumbent and former chief ministers, in both the Congress and the BJP are staring at a difficult choice: They must take a backseat if they want to promote their children’s political careers.
On the defensive, Rahul Gandhi told state Congress chiefs Saturday that in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, no tickets will be given to Rajya Sabha members, sitting MLAs and their family members. This could jeopardise the plans of at least two chief ministers — Ashok Gehlot from Rajasthan and Kamal Nath from Madhya Pradesh — and former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan.
Chavan, the Maharashtra Congress president, is learnt to have put forward the name of his wife and Bhokar MLA, Ameeta, as the party’s Lok Sabha candidate from Nanded, according to party leaders from the state. He would like to vacate this Lok Sabha seat for her and contest the assembly elections to be in the reckoning for the chief minister’s post if the Congress comes to power.
Gehlot’s son, Vaibhav, is in contention for the party ticket for Jodhpur Lok Sabha seat while Nath’s son, Nakul, is in the running for Chhindwara.
If Gandhi were to implement his plan, as laid out Saturday, the families of these top leaders from Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh could be left high and dry. They may, however, hope to benefit from a caveat, spelt out at the same meeting, that the final decision on this issue would be taken by the Congress president.
But if Gandhi makes exceptions in high-profile cases, the party will find it difficult to implement this grandiose plan in the case of others. And there are so many of them.
In the 2008 Karnataka elections, the party had denied a ticket to then general secretary Margaret Alva’s son, Nivedith, which provoked her into alleging that party tickets were being sold.
She had to resign from the party post although she was rehabilitated in a Raj Bhavan later. Her second son, Nikhil, works closely with Gandhi now.
Similar situation in the BJP
Gehlot’s and Nath’s predecessors in office — Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan — as also the former Chhattisgarh chief minister, Raman Singh, may be equally anxious about the political careers of their children.
Having made dynastic politics of the Congress a poll plank, Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah are known to have reservations against fielding more than one member of a family in elections. There were some exceptions in the past but BJP leaders say that they will be “stricter” this time.
After the BJP’s loss in three states in December, Shah brought these three former CMs to national politics by appointing them party vice-presidents, virtually a ceremonial post in terms of powers and functioning.
All three were elected MLAs but were denied the posts of the leader of opposition in the state assemblies by the party’s central leadership. They could hope to be rehabilitated as ministers in the next government if the BJP returns to power. For this to happen, they would like to contest Lok Sabha elections.
But, of these three, Raje’s son Dushyant Singh and Raman Singh’s son Abhishek are already MPs, while Chouhan’s son Kartikeya is expected to make his electoral debut in the coming general elections. The BJP high command is unlikely to field both parents and children in the same election, say party leaders.
After Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s entry in politics, Modi has got more ammunition to attack the Congress for pursuing dynastic politics. But it may turn out to be a double-edged sword.