- All MPs whose age is less than 30 years have other family members in politics.
- More than two-thirds of MPs aged under 40 have other family members in politics.
- An alarming 69.5% of women MPs have other family members in politics.
The statistics prove what most of us always thought. Despite being the world’s largest democracy, politics in India remains family business and the most important political asset in India is family connections.
The national leaders have too much power
In India, if you are simply a normal party worker it is difficult (or impossible) for you to rise up through the ranks as opposed to other countries like the United States. I find that there is a lot of merit in the way in which US political parties conduct primaries to select their candidates for the general election.
In contrast, candidates in India are selected in the most arbitrary manner with the power to finalise the seat allocation being held be the party’s national leaders. This paves the way for nepotism. Senior leaders tend to select their family members to contest on the party ticket regardless of whether they have ever lived or worked in the constituency they contest. Ordinary party workers have to accept these family candidates because there are no internal elections in which they can challenge the party leaders.
The arbitrary method of candidate selection was on full display recently with Sonia Gandhi flying to Tamil Nadu and West Bengal to finalise assembly elections’ seat distribution with coalition partners and local congress leaders being nowhere in sight.
Having internal elections will help!
While a US style primaries system will be too chaotic and unfeasible in India, there should atleast be internal elections to select the party leaders at both local as well as national level with every registered party member having a vote. Once this is in force, the leaders will be unable to practise nepotism because they will be voted out of their posts if they pander excessively to their family while selecting candidates for the elections.
Only mandatory internal elections can improve the situation!
The problem of nepotism cuts across all political and state lines. Congress, the oldest national party, conducted annual elections for the party president every single year from 1885 to 1939 in its pre-independence era. However, since 1998 till date, Sonia Gandhi has been the party president without any internal election at all and she has also personally picked most of the state congress leaders. Regional parties like DMK in Tamil Nadu and ShivSena in Maharashtra practise dynastic succession as well. All three of Karunanidhi’s children are now political leaders of DMK and Balasaheb Thackrey handed over the reins of ShivSena to his son Uddhav Thackrey when he retired from active politics.
Hence, the only way to dealing with the nepotism problem is by the Election Commission and the Parliament passing appropriate legislation to make internal elections mandatory within registered political parties. Though it may sound dramatic and as if EC is interfering with internal functioning of political parties, it is not without precedent. The anti defection laws passed by the Rajiv Gandhi government were as dramatic but really changed the political landscape for the better.
Genuine leaders need not fear
Internal elections shall deal with the problem of nepotism effectively because while those trying to make a political career solely by hanging on to their parents’ coat tails will be dissuaded, hardworking and honest second or third generation leaders such as Omar Abdullah or Rahul Gandhi may not find it very difficult to get elected as their party presidents.
This particular reform is long overdue in India and I hope some government finds the political will to propose and implement it before it is too late.
Stats source: http://www.theindiasite.com/family-politics/