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Lalu & sons: Why contemporary politics is bad family business


It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of, err, a political party. That's how British novelist Jane Austen would have written her famous opening lines had she been living in today's politically charged India.

Single politicians have come to acquire an edge over others these days. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar and Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, are all bachelors. J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik are too part of the club even though they took the family route to politics. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi also is such a bachelor but burdened too by his family to make the best use of his single status.

  What is the unfair advantage of single politicians? They don't have a brood to take care of. Lack of a family that needs to be 'settled' in politics or business increases their bargaining power and risk-taking ability. It makes them less prone to compromises. A Modi or an Adityanath are free of the family baggage that burdens an Akhilesh or Lalu Yadav.

  Singles in Indian politics have risen when dynasts are falling. The two trends appear to feed each other.

  There were times when politics as a family business used to thrive. The contemporary politics when the aspirational lower classes have become too demanding of politicans is proving to be a bad family business.

  Look at Mulayam Singh or Lalu Prasad Yadav. They faced no major challenges as their vote bank remained more or less intact even after the Modi tsunami in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Their main challenge became their family and relatives.

  With the youth comprising a majority of Indians, political discourse on the ground has radically changed. The youth is ambitious and aspirational and does not inherit liking for dynasts from parents who grew up in an opportunity-starved socialist India when ambition was not what defined lower classes.

 Liberalisation has created opportunities for youth. It has become easy for a large number of youths to make a class jump if they work hard. They have little admiration for leaders who peddle family privilege. The new upwardly mobile generation considers it a foul. Dynasts and scions appealed to the masses when they symbolised a world which was rightfully theirs. Social heirarchical order was too rigid and few could expect to escape their class status.

  Lalu Yadav is a politician from the old times who is trying to practise his craft in a changed India. He may still have his vote bank, which old leaders will retain among the poor and opportunity-starved masses, but his appeal is waning. Tejashwi has become his liability. He can become a bigger liability if the old Lalu loyalists in the party start challenging him.

  Political scions have a future in India only if they draw inspiration from their corporate counterparts. Though the scions of big business families have an advantage over political scions because they own the company while political scions don't have that kind of claim over the party, still they can serve as role models for political scions.

  A number of top business scions are not just inheritors. They are reinventing their businesses. Political scions are mostly thrust upon the party and have little new to contribute to its growth.

The way in which the younger generation in family businesses are functioning today are different from the older generation as the steady expansion and maintenance-oriented approach of the past gives way to younger professional teams, speed of doing things, heavy dependence on technology and huge onus on performance.

In today's politics, only those scions will survive who make a solid contribution to the party's growth. Political dynasty without such scions will keep losing out to bachelors.

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