Powerful Regional Parties Prove Dynasty Is Bad ‘Only In Congress’

The saffron party has successfully delegitimised the Congress as an opposition, by accusing it of having dynasticism and a weak leader.

The BJP has been relentless in attacking the Congress party over the ‘dynasty’ politics. Many may remember Prime Minister Modi referring to Rahul Gandhi as ‘Yuvraj’, the crown prince and the heir apparent. PM Modi successfully engineered a campaign that showed the Congress party as a dynasty-ruled organisation, and Rahul Gandhi as the ultimate leader the party could offer. The campaign, of course, involved portraying Mr Gandhi as a non-serious and immature politician, with the frequent ‘Pappu’ barbs. This has perhaps been the biggest reason why Congress could not make a comeback in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections when PM Modi and the BJP won the second term in power. The saffron party has successfully delegitimised Congress as an opposition, by accusing it of having dynasticism and a weak leader.


Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi at a Congress Working Committee meeting in pre-covid times. (Photograph: Altaf Hussain/Reuters)


To some extent, the criticism by the BJP is fair. Congress, in the last few decades, has become the Gandhi Family-centric party. All major decisions, whether organisational or electoral, are made by the Gandhi family. Despite two humiliating losses in two consecutive Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi remains to be the only leader the Congress has to offer for the Prime Ministerial position.

However, just a little look around the major Indian political parties, whether regional or national, can show that dynasticism is very much prevalent in all of them.

Shiv Sena

The right-wing party founded by cartoonist Bal Thackeray originally emerged from nativist movements in Bombay, now Mumbai. It, however, spread across Maharashtra, credit to the aggressive attitude and oratory skills of Bal Thackeray. Uddhav Thackeray, Bal Thackeray’s son, is now the party’s supremo and also the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Originally a photographer, Uddhav was appointed the working president of Shiv Sena in 2003. Since then, he has controlled the Mumbai-based party.

Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aaditya Thackeray is the chief of Yuva Sena, the youth wing of the party, an MLA from the Worli constituency, and the Cabinet Minister of Tourism and Environment for the Government of Maharashtra. It is evident that Aaditya Thackeray is going to be the next Shiv Sena chief after Uddhav Thackeray.


Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray with his son Uddhav Thackeray and grandson Aaditya Thackeray.


The BJP, however, did not see a ‘dynasty’ problem with the Shiv Sena as it remained in an alliance with Bal Thackeray’s party. Shiv Sena and BJP together ruled in Maharashtra from 2014 to 2019, while Uddhav Thackeray was the Sena chief. Had the two parties not broken their alliance, Aaditya Thackeray probably would have been a minister in the BJP-Sena government as well. Poing being, dynasticism in the Shiv Sena wasn’t really much of a concern for the BJP.

Nationalist Congress Party

Talking of Maharashtra politics, Shiv Sena’s partner in the Maharashtra government- Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)- is a centrist party led by Sharad Pawar. The veteran politician formed the NCP after quitting the Congress party.

Ajit Pawar, the nephew of Sharad Pawar, is currently the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule is a Member of Parliament. Parth Pawar, son of Ajit Pawar, unsuccessfully fought the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. Rohit Pawar, Sharad Pawar’s grand nephew, is a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly.


NCP Chief Sharad Pawar with his daughter Supriya Sule, nephew Ajit Pawar and grandnephew Rohit Pawar.


Though Sharad Pawar continues to lead the party, there is reportedly an ongoing tussle between Ajit Pawar and Supriya Sule regarding who’ll lead the party after the veteran leader. Sharad Pawar has shed no light on this issue yet. However, it is evidently clear that Sharad Pawar’s successor will be from the Pawar family only.

The BJP has virtually never targeted the NCP over dynasty politics. In addition, BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis also unsuccessfully attempted to form the government in the state with the help of Ajit Pawar and other NCP MLAs.

Shiromani Akali Dal

Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is a centre-right Sikh-centric state political party in Punjab formed in 1920 as a task force of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee. Parkash Singh Badal, who has been the Chief Minister of Punjab four times, was president of the century-old party from 1995 to 2008. His son Sukhbir Singh Badal was later appointed as the chief of SAD. He was Deputy Chief Minister during the SAD-BJP rule in Punjab from 2012 to 2017. Sukhbir Singh Badal’s wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal is a member of Parliament since 2009 and was the union food processing minister in the current BJP-led NDA government, which the party quit recently after the confrontation over new farm laws.


Parkash Singh Badal with son Sukhbir Singh Badal and daughter-in-law Harsimrat Kaur Badal.


The Akali Dal was the BJP’s oldest ally till the recent breakup. However, the BJP had no problems keeping Akali Dal as a constituent of the NDA and sharing government with it, despite the party being taken over by the Badal family.

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), loosely translated as Dravidian Progressive Federation, is a centre-left party founded by CN Annadurai in 1949. After his death in 1969, M Karunanidhi took over as the President of DMK. M Karunanidhi served as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for five non-consecutive terms. At present DMK is led by Karunanidhi’s son MK Stalin. Stalin is also the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Alagiri, another Karunanidhi’s son, is part of active politics and was sidelined by Stalin to become the leader of the party. Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi is a member of parliament. Stalin’s son Udhayanidhi is also a member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly.

Telangana Rashtra Samithi

Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is a regional political party predominantly active in Telangana. It was founded on 27 April 2001 by K. Chandrashekar Rao (KCR), with a single-point agenda of creating a separate Telangana state with Hyderabad as its capital. KCR is now the Chief Minister of Telangana.

Rao’s son, K. T. Rama Rao is a legislator and cabinet minister for IT, Municipal Administration & Urban Development. His daughter, Kavitha, served as M.P. from Nizamabad. His nephew, Harish Rao, is MLA for Siddipet and Telangana’s cabinet minister for finance.

Rashtriya Janata Dal

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) is a prominent centrist party from Bihar. The party, founded by Lalu Prasad Yadav in 1997, is considered as the champion of the cause of lower caste politics. Lalu Yadav served as Chief Minister of Bihar from 1990 to 1997. He also served as the union railway minister during the UPA government. His wife Rabri Devi served as Chief Minister for two terms. His son Tejashwi Yadav was Deputy Chief Minister before Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) joined the NDA and dumped the RJD. His other son Tej Pratap Yadav was also a health minister. Tejashwi Yadav, who led the opposition in absence of his father in the last assembly election, is now the leader of the opposition in the Bihar legislative assembly.


Lalu Prasad Yadav with wife Rabri Devi and sons Tejashwi Yadav and Tej Pratap Yadav.


Samajwadi Party

The Samajwadi Party (SP) was founded by Mulayam Singh Yadav in 1992 after Janata Dal fragmented into several regional parties. Mulayam Singh served for three non-consecutive terms as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. The Samajwadi Party is now led by Mulayam Singh’s son and the former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav after he was chosen the President by the National Convention held on 1 January 2017.

Trinamool Congress

The Mamata Banerjee-led TMC was not accused of dynasty politics until the Chief Minister’s nephew made his political debut. Abhishek Banerjee was first appointed President of the party’s youth wing. Mr Banerjee is currently a member of parliament and general secretary of the TMC.

Bharatiya Janata Party

Though dynasticism is not as rampant in the BJP as other parties, there sure have been several leaders who became lawmakers and ministers because of their parents being leaders of the saffron party.

Anurag Thakur, son of BJP leader and former Himachal Pradesh CM Prem Kumar Dhumal, is currently a Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs. Piyush Goyal, the Union Minister for Railways, also owes his political position to his parents. His mother was a three-time BJP legislator from Maharashtra and his father served as the Union Minister for shipping in the Third Vajpayee ministry from 2001 to 2003. Defense Minister Rajnath Singh’s son Pankaj Singh is the BJP’s General Secretary for Uttar Pradesh. Kailash Vijayvargiya’s son Aakash Vijayvargiya is an MLA.


BJP’s Piyush Goyal and Anurag Thakur are both sons of tall BJP leaders.


There have been many leaders from the BJP who have actively promoted their sons/relatives in the party. However, it should also be recognised that the BJP cannot be controlled at the top by a single family. The party’s functioning presently does not allow that to happen. The reason for this is perhaps the larger role that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh plays in the saffron party’s organisational and electoral decisions.

But it should also be truthfully noted that dynasticism is rampant in Indian politics and major political parties practice it. The BJP, by targeting the Congress alone over dynasty politics and not other parties, is perhaps sticking to its strategy of maligning other national alternative available for the voters.






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