We are a republic of the monarchs

shishir

Shishir Tripathi | November 24, 2015



Writing for Frontier in 1983, noted political theorist and commentator Partha Chatterjee remarked that India has quietly built a system in which "to the accompaniment of the full fanfare of democratic process" it elects its own monarchs. Stressing on the irony, he quoted then prime minister Indira Gandhi, who spoke at the AICC (I) session in Bombay "with the investiture of Crown Prince, one whom the party expected to be duly elected to the office of our democratic monarchy".

Chatterjee wrote that Gandhi while speaking on the occasion, said," I don’t come from a royal family but we have acquired the status by our dedicated hard work". Just a year after the Mrs. Gandhi's assertion of her royalty, her pilot son went on to become the prime minister of the largest democracy, without any proven credential for the job.

Three decades have brought little changes. Self-acclaimed royals and monarchs still thrive in their heavily guarded monarchies. For a generation that believes in a meritocratic society against the benefits of birth, sight of a semi-educated youngster being made the second-in-command in one of the most important states of the country was highly intriguing.

Some two years ago while working for the Indian Express, during an Idea exchange programme with JDU leader Sharad Yadav, I asked him why is Nehru-Gandhi family blamed for supporting nepotism while it happens everywhere, be it UP or Uttarakhand? He replied without being politically correct. He said, "I have said that two-thirds of the country is run by families. That is not a good thing." When a senior journalist further prodded him on the irony that his once fellow travellers Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav have indulged in nepotism, he said, "Why comment on personal decisions of any particular person? Many people left us because of this issue. Laluji made the right decision by leaving us because we would have not let his wife, Rabriji, become the CM. We would not have agreed with that."

The irony remains that now his own party has joined hands with Lalu Prasad Yadav and allowed both his sons to be important players in the government. But then, there are no absolutes in politics. Perhaps, most ardent critics of dynastic politics are now ready to accept this new system of monarchical republic.

We may cry foul on what we call dynastic politics, but then this a reality all over the world, be it the United States of America or Indonesia. Maybe the reason behind the existence of political dynasties is the fact that politics is now considered a business. And like any business, the families in politics want the spoils of 'hard work' to be passed to their progeny and not to some outsider.

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