Several Indians view ‘dynastic’ politics within the Congress as extremely objectionable and regard the party with extreme animosity, more for this reason than any other. I actually personally know someone who feels a visceral hatred for them mainly for this reason.
Yet funnily enough, dynastic succession is not confined just to the Congress party. It is there across all parties where there has been an heir-in-waiting in the wings, and absent in others more for reasons of there not being one (an heir), rather than on principle. The only reason why it seems to be more obvious within the Congress is because this party is the oldest and has, as a consequence, had more generations of that family grow up and come into their own, within independent India.
In addition, dynastic succession is an extremely common occurrence in India not just in politics but across all areas of endeavour, be it Entrepreneurship, Law, Medicine, Cinema or anything else you can possibly think of. Indians believe in nepotism as a right, more than any other country on earth (arguably). And this is practiced not only across progeny but across caste, community and so on.
In spite of this when it comes to the Congress, dynastic succession has been used (especially in recent times) as a stick to beat that party with. And yet we know that in politics, expediency is key. No person would survive in politics unless they served some purpose. Clearly then it is the Nehru-Gandhi family connection that has served the Congress, much more than the other way around. In other words, it is not the party that does that family a favor but rather the reverse.
And it is for this reason alone that reluctant members of that family from Rajiv Gandhi onward, have been inducted into the party to play an active role when from all evidence it was clear that they had no desire to be a part of it.
Also consider that this party has put forward Prime Ministers, that were not members of the first family, too. They include Lal Bahadur Shastri, P.V. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh. So it isn’t as if the party has had some fixation on only ever having PMs from within the family.
It is the party, therefore, that has used them and benefited from the connection and influence and hence has clung on for dear life. The family has had a unifying and calming influence over the party quelling what would otherwise result in a falling apart from competitive ambitions from within cadres, with regard to the leadership of the same.
And have there been any repugnant repercussions as a consequence? There is always the argument that merit ought to have been rewarded rather than lineage. And no doubt that is a valid argument. But it is for the party to decide which between the two is more expedient for the party to use. Are the recent reverses solely because of the current party leadership. I think that would be too simplistic a view of the same. They are to be expected for any party that has been in power for so long. After all anti-incumbency is something that all parties live with and understand.
Remember too, that after a full, and triumphantly entered into, term of the A,B.Vajpayee government that gave a relatively better showing of itself (than the current one) and put out the ambitious India Shining campaign across India, it was still the Congress that came back to power for two terms running. If the Congress has problems, then dynasty is the least of them.
In contrast consider the baggage that the BJP brings along with it, a much more insidious, dangerous and poisonous one at that. I speak of none other than the RSS. An organization that kept itself safely away from India’s struggle for independence and from whose cadres came Godse the man who will always be infamously remembered for the assassination of Gandhi. They now seek to appropriate for themselves that very legacy of which they have no part whatsoever, by claiming to be the torch bearers of nationalism.
And what form does their nationalism take. It limits itself to manufacturing a non-existent enemy from among the citizens of India and then claiming to vanquish said imaginary enemy by building hate camps across this country and infecting young minds with its poison. They have succeeded to a large extent in their ambitions to spread this infection far and wide, and the victory of the Modi/BJP government owed as much to the same machinations, as to anything else.
Their aim is to successfully spread their tentacles across India and destroy the legacy of the Nehru-Gandhis and the Congress which stood more than anything else, for secularism. No doubt the grand old party has also strayed from that path and owes its reverses to its own follies in part too. But one can never underestimate the damage being systematically done by the RSS now having its political arm firmly in the seat of power.
The bogey of dynasty then, is a false one, created with the sole purpose of distracting from the real danger that faces India today. Our institutions and people are being steadily infected as we are kept distracted with any number of small irrelevant issues that draw people’s attention away from what is really going on at a very basic level. This particular enemy of India, never sleeps. It feeds on hatred, and waits for the day when it is truly engorged and satiated to spew its venom across this country. We underestimate and ignore this enemy within, at our own peril.