Priyanka Gandhi’s appointment and dynastic politics in India

Priyanka Gandhi’s appointment as General Secretary of Uttar Pradesh (East) has brought the Congress under attack for practicing dynastic politics, but can other parties be exempted from this charge or is this political malice infecting the whole of India’s democratic and political fabric?

Kavya Thomas | The New Leam

Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi/ Image Source : Anonymous

The Congress party appointed Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as the General Secretary of Uttar Pradesh (East). This appointment comes when just a few months are left before the parliamentary elections. Given this strategic move by the Congress Party, many from the ruling party have called it nothing but an assertion of dynastic politics and revival of nepotism in part politics. This is indeed a strange and deeply problematic trend within Indian politics that has alienated many dedicated people who really want to work at the grassroots and commit themselves to the political cause but are seldom entrusted with positions of power if they don’t belong to a particular dynasty.

It is true not only of the Congress but of almost all political parties in India, where generations from within a family occupy politically significant positions even without doing anything at the grassroots, without relating to the issues of the people and without  acquiring their legitimacy in people’s hearts.

In Bihar we see the assertion of a political dynasty headed by erstwhile Chief Minister Laloo Yadav and carried forward by his wife and erstwhile Chief Minister Rabri Devi and sons Tejaswi Yadav and Tej Paratap Yadav, in Uttar Pradesh erstwhile Chief Minister’s son Akhilesh Yadav became the Chief Minister and had several family members as MPs from the state, similarly Ram Vilas Paswan is a minister in the BJP government and his son Chirag Paswan and brother Ramchandra are all MPs and many other regional parties such as TDP, RJD,PDP,BJD and even the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha(JMM) have proved that in Indian politics family does not only matter but it also governs the decisions that political parties make.

Congress under Scrutiny for Dynastic Politics

The Congress Party has been time and again criticized for openly being is support of dynastic politics and not being confident about allowing leaders outside the Gandhi family to take up prominent positions within the party leadership.

These allegations once again came to the forefront when Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday announced that his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as the General Secretary of the party in Uttar Pradesh. He has also chosen Jyotiraditya Scindia for the same post. He asserted that the selection of young, dynamic leaders like Priyanka and Jyotiraditya will bring change in the politics of the state. This move is being termed as Priynaka Gandhi’s official entry into party politics and she is planning to take charge of her office from the first week of February.  

Rahul Gandhi said that the appointments should not be taken for a display of enmity against the major players in Uttar Pradesh such as Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav and said that the Congress was willing to work in cooperation with the ultimate aim of defeating the BJP. It should also be recalled at this moment that in a strategic play of events, the BSP and Samajwadi Party had decided against including the Congress in their alliance in the state. While visiting Amethi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said that the leadership of Priyanka Gandhi from the state would soon ensure a Congress Chief Minister.  Congress leaders such as Randeep Singh Surjewala, Sachin Pilot and the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Kamal Nath all congratulated Priyanka Gandhi and welcomed her to take charge of her office. The Congress took a moment to celebrate and congratulate Priyanka Gandhi but the BJP left no opportunity unused when it came to criticizing such a move by the Congress.

BJP Rages, Accuses the Opposition

The BJP leadership said that the appointment of Priyanka Gandhi could be seen as the acknowledgment by the Congress of the failure of Rahul Gandhi on all possible fonts. BJP Spokesperson Sambit Patra said that after being negated partnership from the Grand Opposition Alliance, the Congress has ultimately resorted to looking for a crutch within the family. The allegation made by the BJP was that while the Congress considered the family to be the party, it was the BJP that considered the party to be the family. The appointment of Priyanka Gandhi as the General Secretary for UP (East) before the elections is being seen as a strategic move to revamp the Congress Party’s face in the polls. Priyanka Gandhi’s political plunge was long waited for in the political circuits and now that she has finally taken the plunge, the expectations are really very high on her.

This election is extremely important for the nation in general and the Congress in particular because it has no option rather than to revive its fortunes. While Priyanka has addressed rallies in regions such as Amethi and Raebareli in the past years which are the traditional strongholds of the Congress Party in UP since the times of Nehru- Priyanka Gandhi has so far not had any formal post in the party hierarchy.  The family had been asked time and again whether Priyanka Gandhi would be joining active politics but they never gave a clear answer but now that she is finally into politics, there are immense hopes from her. The strategic decision making by the Congress to make Priyanka the General- Secretary in-charge of UP East is of great significance because it is also where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency, Varanasi is located.  It is not yet certain whether Indira Gandhi would be contesting the 2019 elections but what is sure is that the step by the Congress is sure to leave its penetrating impact. While the Congress and the BJP hurl allegations and counter-allegations at each other what will remain to be seen is whether the appointment of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra continues to be only a repetition of the allegation of dynastic politics that the Congress has been so far accused of or whether her leadership will really transform her constituency.  

Looking for the Leader

What will also remain to be seen is whether, a leader like Priyanka Gandhi who has seldom had any experience of being actively involved in party politics will be able to make her own distinctive identity in the few months before the Parliamentary Elections. Only when Priyanka Gandhi proves her own caliber and stands on her own work amidst the people, can she wash away the tag of nepotism and dynastic politics that has often been hurled on the Congress. Perhaps it is also an opportune time for the Congress to think beyond the conventional and safe propagation of family members to important party positions and allow non-family leaders to form young Congress leadership. This acceptance and support will surely enable the Congress to revive its game.

Thus what we cannot deny is the fact that Indian politics is indeed going through a transition and the promotion of the family seems to be prevalent all throughout the nation. Indian people surely have to wait till the time when Indian democracy will mature and allow more fresh minds to come up with new ideas to renovate the system without the holding of family tags. The Congress will have to bare the acquisition of this attack until it radically re-imagines the ways in which its leadership ought to change.  Dynastic politics after all is a nasty politics.

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