As ivory towers go; a belief in ones’ god given right to rule is one that has been broken down piece by piece by the electorate in the recently conducted elections of Uttar Pradesh. The Bharatiya Janata Party in its present incarnation drawing inspiration from the teachings of ‘Ekatma Manav-vaad’ of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya has been the biggest beneficiary of this desirable transformation in the Indian Political Landscape.
From the year 1980 Sh. Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his Presidential address in the first National Executive of the BJP in Mumbai held out the hope of a credible political opposition based on ideologically driven politics when he said “Andhera Chhatega Kamal Khilegaa” to the clarion call given by Sh. Narendra Modi in 2013-14 for a “Congress Mukt Bharat” we have seen many ups and downs in our political journey. But the one thing that has been the hallmark of the BJP’s brand of politics is a fierce loyalty towards ideology and a very clear and cogent stand that talent shall always upstage blood lines. This is the reason that the BJP has been able to produce stalwarts in the political landscape of India even though it has been in opposition for a large part of its political journey. Be it the dynamic persona of Atalji and Advaniji in the 1980s through to the first years of the new millennia or the towering persona of Sh. Narendra Modi and Sh. Amit Shah in the last few years, the thread that runs common amongst all these individuals is that they do not possess the “benefit” of any political lineage or dynasty. They are men who have made their mark in the political landscape and history of our great nation by sheer hard work and capability to take people along.
In India, we have seen the downfall of many a political dynasty; be it the formidable Rajeshekhar Reddy, the Gogois in Assam or the Chautalas in Haryana. The Indian electorate which has a large proportion of young voters does not feel beholden to the erstwhile “ruling dynasties”.
One could say that the watershed moment in Indian electoral politics came in 1991 when with opening up of the economy the Indian populace was brought face to face with the burgeoning changes that were taking place across the world. Then came the private sector investment in News Television which brought about a change of epic proportions in the life of politicians. We bid goodbye to the age of politicians who deigned it appropriate to interact with electorate around election time or at a time and place of their choosing. 24 hours news meant politics and politicians were expected to be “on call” 24×7. Gradually, we also saw the social media platforms growing, and over the years becoming the preferred mode of interaction with the electorate. This development also meant that the “mai baap” veneration that “old style” politicians were used to became a thing of the past. This transformation has been ingrained by certain individual politicians and political organizations while others are grudgingly coming to terms with the need to ingrain this truth of political discourse as part of their SOP. Political outfits and individuals who have not made this requisite change have been or are in the process of being relegated to oblivion of political irrelevance.
It is not surprising that the maximum damage has been suffered by political dynasties as they have not been able to cope with this change in voter sentiment, the new India which does not feel it owes its existence to certain families to ensure their political relevance.
When in the prelude to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections a rather garrulous spokesperson of the INC referred to the present Prime Minister as a “Chaiwala” it was not just an example of the downfall of our political discourse but also blatantly points to the sense of entitlement that goes at the very root of politics based not on ideology but on kowtowing before a dynasty. The people of the country however, chose to only remember the immense work done by Sh. Narendra Modi as the Chief Minister of Gujarat and gave the BJP led NDA a historic mandate in 2014. The electorate ensured the politicians know that their preferences lay with merit not scions of dynasty and replied with a resounding electoral defeat of the Congress that has become a synonym for one family.
Resting on past laurels and basking in reflected glory of past generation(s) is not something that the young voter would stand for, this is important since approximately 65% of the voters are in age group of 18-35. This huge chunk of our demography has not seen or experienced the horrors of colonial rule first hand and as such any attempt at garnering vote in the name of one’s ancestors who were part of the Independence movement does not cut ice with gen next. The electorate today is also looking for active participation of its prospective representative(s) on issues that confront them everyday. A serious political activist cannot be seen to be engaging in issues in fits and starts. The sudden sputtering into life of an old motor that again goes into periodic stupor is not what the electorate wants its elected representative to imitate.
We as political activists and workers have a responsibility to not only engage with the electorate on a regular basis but also engage for them, be their voice in the Parliament and in the legislature. It is essential that we do not place our self-interest above national interest. When the Parliament was not allowed to function because the trial Court in Delhi summoned the Gandhis, a charade of vendetta politics was raised. When the personal interest of a family is put above the interest of the nation the electorate does not take it in its stride because it sees through the political stunt and realizes that it is yet again the manifestation of an age old system seeking to make a comeback.
But what of people who were blessed to be constituents of the prestigious Amethi which since 2004 held the enviable position of being the Lok Sabha Constituency of the scion of the Nehru Gandhi family; the family that was for all intents and purposes running the government at the Centre by proxy. The same faith was reposed in 2009, from 2012 the Congress and the Samajwadi Party were hand in hand in the Centre and there was again hope that with even the state government on the same side as their elected representative the wheels of development would finally move in the non-descript lanes and by-lanes of this dusty collection of hamlets. However, for the electorate of Amethi and for the rest of Uttar Pradesh the period from 2012 till 2014 proved to be one of immense disappointments. The Central Government and the State Government had their political interest aligned together and it was expected that the scions of two illustrious political dynasties would collectively find within themselves the ability to meet the expectations and aspirations of the State and their respective constituency. Alas! This was not to be.
During my consecutive visits to Amethi I was simply appalled as I witnessed miles and miles of misery! Yet, the people were grateful for that 30 km long one-lane tract of bricked road which connects their village to a pockmarked main road. Even in misery, there was optimism of a better future. But when the elected representative seeks to sell the same dream over and over again the electorate decides to teach the said haloed representative a lesson in humility. This lesson came in form of the results of the just concluded assembly election results in Uttar Pradesh.
The Bharatiya Janata Party fighting under the leadership of the dynamic Prime Minister – a man who humbly presents himself as our Nation’s ‘Pradhan Sevak’ he struck a chord with the aspirations and ambitions of the burgeoning millions. The political opposition tried to harp on old familial relations but the electorate let them know that the time of the dynasties without any perceptible work on the ground is well and truly over.
It is imperative for us to realize that being a member of a political dynasty is not just a privilege but an added responsibility, the electorate would be measuring the scions not on their surnames but on their actual performance, in some cases the omissions and commissions of the past generations would also be like a dead weight around them. The sun seems to have set on the son(s) and/or daughter(s) of the dynasties.
(Smriti Zubin Irani is a Member of Parliament, being nominated to the Rajya Sabha from the state of Gujarat. She is the current Minister of Textiles in the Government of India.)
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