Vol. XLIII No. 23 June 09, 2019

Truth about Modi’s Fight against Dynastic Politics: One-fourth of New Ministers Part of Political Families

Satyaki S

IN the run-up to the parliamentary election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah went to town on the danger of dynastic politics, thundering that it was being practised by opposition parties against the interests of the country and that the BJP was here to put an end to it. In reality though, the BJP too practises dynastic politics like any other bourgeois party.

Here is the truth – at least one-fourth of the 58 newly appointed ministers have or had close family members in high political positions.

Days after the decisive victory of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in the 17th Lok Sabha election, President Ram Nath Kovind administered the oath of office to the new ministers on May 30. Besides the prime minister, there are a total of 57 ministers – 24 cabinet ministers, nine ministers of state with independent charge and 24 ministers of state.

Of the 24 cabinet ministers, at least half-a-dozen belong to different political families. Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister Nirmala Sitharaman belongs to a political family in Andhra Pradesh. Her husband had been associated with different parties, including the BJP, and her father-in-law was a long-time legislator and served in the state government.

Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s father was a minister in Bihar and a leader of the Jan Sangh, the earlier avatar of the BJP. The fathers of Railways Minister Piyush Goyal and Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan were senior leaders of the BJP and had served as ministers under former premier Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Among the BJP’s allies, Ramvilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Harsimrat Kaur Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) are members of the union cabinet. Paswan has built a political empire within his family – both his brother and son are members of the 17th Lok Sabha from Bihar. Kaur belongs to a prominent political family in Punjab – the Badals. Her husband was a former deputy chief minister and father-in-law a former chief minister of Punjab.

Of the nine ministers of state with independent charge, at least three are dynasts. Statistics and Programme Implementation Minister Rao Inderjit Singh’s father was a chief minister of Haryana for a short period, besides being ministers in both Punjab and Haryana and a minister at the centre. Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju’s father was a legislator in Arunachal Pradesh. Culture and Tourism Minister Prahalad Singh Patel belongs to a political family in Madhya Pradesh. His brother Jalam Singh Patel was a minister in the erstwhile state government led by the BJP. Among the ministers of state (MoS), BJP’s Anurag Thakur, a four-term Lok Sabha member, comes from a prominent political family in Himachal Pradesh. He was first elected to the Lok Sabha from the Hamirpur constituency in a by-election in 2008 after his father vacated the seat on being appointed as chief minister. His father, P K Dhumal, served as chief minister of the hill state on two occasions – 1998-2003 and 2007-12.

Many of the ministers are also encouraging dynastic politics by promoting their children within the party. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s son Pankaj Singh is a BJP MLA in Uttar Pradesh. The son of MoS Ashwini Kumar Choubey is also a BJP leader and unsuccessfully contested the 2015 Bihar assembly election on a party ticket. MoS Danve Raosaheb Dadarao’s son is a BJP MLA in Maharashtra.

Barring the CPI(M) and other Left parties, dynastic politics is all-pervasive in national and regional parties in India. And the BJP, which often harps on about the humble origin of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to drive home the point that the party rewards hard work and does not seek family connections, is not insulated from it. To hide their failure in ending dynastic politics within the party, what the Modi-Shah duo did during this election campaign was to launch repeated offensive against the opposition parties, blaming them for the menace of “parivarvaad”.

There is certainly a need for putting an end to dynastic politics and the youth in the country are crying for it, but the BJP or any other bourgeois party cannot be the vehicle for it.