The disease of scion-itis: Rahul Gandhi vs Akhilesh Yadav

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by Vyom, Jan 9, 2012.

  1. Vyom

    Vyom Seeker Elite Member

    Dec 23, 2009
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    With the UP elections in the air, and our most famous political baby facing off against his local counterpart, the media are displaying full-blown symptoms of scion-itis. Take, for instance, the recent India Today profile ofAkhilesh Yadav, which opens with party worker’s Samsung cell phone, lingers lovingly on his daughter’s iPad, and then goes on to hit all the usual notes. Cool personal gadget as symbol of his modern, tech-savvy style? Check. Urban, upper class beta rediscovering his rural roots? NextGen leader who is all about empowering the youth? Young man on a mission to modernise and reform? Invocation of the usual descriptors: yuvraj, prince, heir apparent, et al? Check, check and check.

    This stuff writes itself. Every politician’s kid with significant political ambitions evokes the same Pavlovian media response: fawning prose, repetitive themes, and near-identical language.

    While Rahul Gandhi may bear the brunt of anti-dynastic rage, the reality is that Indian politics is chock-a-block with princelings and even some princesses. The yuvrajs in the UP election fray include Ajit Singh‘s son Jayant Chaudhary and of course, the other Gandhi of the BJP kind, as in Varun. But there is little that is remarkable about the much-touted “battle of the scions”. The majority of our young ‘modern ‘politicians are heir apparents. Patrick French’s recent book, India: A Portrait, offered this startling revelationabout the Indian Parliament:

    [​IMG]For all the vague niceties about change, modernisation and reform, what hereditary politicians represent is continuity — not of policies or ideology, but strictly of lineage. Reuters
    Every MP in the Lok Sabha under the age of 30 had in effect inherited a seat, and more than two-thirds of the 66 MPs aged 40 or under were HMPS [Hereditary Members of Parliament]. In addition, this new wave of Indian lawmakers would have a decade’s advantage in politics over their peers, since the average MP who had benefited from family politics was almost 10 years younger than those who had arrived with ‘No Significant Family Background’. In the Congress, the situation was yet more extreme: every Congress MP under the age of 35 was an HMP. If the trend continued, it was possible that most members of the Indian Parliament would be there by heredity alone, and the nation would be back to where it had started before the freedom struggle, with rule by a hereditary monarch and assorted Indian princelings.

    One can argue — as Ajit Mohan does on the India RealTime blog, that scion-itis is a national disease. Hereditary actors are no less prevalent than hereditary politicians, or for that matter hereditary doctors and lawyers. So many of us inherit our parent’s professional success, be it a medical practice or a Bollywood career. So why rant against the same trend in politics?

    Surely, as Mohan points out, it’s we who keep these dynasties in place: “A rant against political dynasties is out of order. Dynasties, whether in the modern world or prior, have always been more a reflection of the people they rule over, the power structures the ruled embrace, and the stories and myths that they accept, than just about the raw ambitions of successive scions.”

    The arguments are persuasive yet they ring hollow — perhaps because, unlike a profession, political power in a democracy is not a skill or enterprise to be passed on from one generation to another. A doctor may be a doctor — be it father or son — but a Nehru is not an Indira is not Rajiv is not Rahul. Vision, ideology, values, policies, these are the stuff of politics. It is what differentiates one politician from another — or at least ought to. Ideally, we choose what kind of nation we want to be when we vote for a party or a leader.
    And yet all political heirs acquire an alarming clone-like similarity in their media coverage. So similar, in fact, that today’s edition of the Times of India has a hard time telling them apart:
    The similarities between the two Lok Sabha MPs are obvious. In their khadi and Gandhi jackets, both draw large crowds, talk development and inspire young followers. Both stepped out of their fathers’ , and grandparents ‘ in Rahul’s case, shadows and found their own in politics over the last decade. For the youth, the 41-year-old bachelor Rahul and 38-year-old father-of-three Akhilesh both symbolise change. Party workers say the tech-savvy Akhilesh has enlisted the maximum number of youth in the four years he’s been at the party’s helm of affairs. He is the creative brain behind SP’s technological upgrade and the ad campaign where a bicycle overtakes an elephant.

    The two men are curiously bereft of politics in the deeper sense of the word. TOI is reduced instead to highlighting differences in personal “style”: one “connects”; the other “inspires”.

    We again encounter this peculiar lack of substance in French’s conversation with a Congress insider about the young HMPs:
    What did they believe in? “It hasn’t crystallised at all. These boys have all seen the world. They don’t have an ideology.” This was intended, I think, as a compliment, the idea being that India had suffered from, and to an extent still suffers from, ideological politics. Did the new hereditary MPs… have plans? “They work really hard. Their constituents think they will just put in a call and get electricity for their village. They feel there is so much to do, they don’t know where to begin.” Why had they entered politics? “I can’t promise they are not wanting to make money. I wouldn’t say it’s from idealism, except perhaps with Rahul. He’s not sentimental, he has a clinical mind.

    The answers are confused and confusing. But what comes clearly through is a degraded view of democratic politics. For all the vague niceties about change, modernisation and reform, what hereditary politicians represent is continuity — not of policies or ideology, but strictly of lineage. This is politics as family bijness. Hence, this new generation of insubstantial, amorphous, ‘apolitical’ politicians who stand for nothing, represent no one, seeking power out of familial duty. Like good Indian children, they are doing right by their parents, and sadly, a great wrong to democracy.

    The disease of scion-itis: Rahul Gandhi vs Akhilesh Yadav | Firstpost

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