Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dynasty: Too Little or Too Much

    Rahul Gandhi's unanimous election as Vice President of the Congress Party has set off a flurry of discussion on the issue of Dynasty and dynastic succession in political parties. Whether it is Karunanidhi in Tamil Nadu, Mulayam Singh in UP, Jaganmohan Reddy in Andhra or Chauthala in Haryana, there is no dearth of political "dynasties" in India. Indeed political dynasties are common across South Asia, whether in Bangladesh (the two begums), Sri Lanka (Bandarnayaka) to Pakistan (Bhuttos).  Is there something in our culture that brings this about? 
       Historically the hold of the Varna system solidified in the form of occupational categories that are passed on from father to son, was quite pronounced and visible in daily life.  These appeared to be quite stable as long as the economic system was quite static and stable. with the arrival of modern education and industry new professions arose, that did not exist previously. These were open to those who were in a position to exploit the opportunity, partly because of their privileged position but partly because they were the first to see a new lucrative opportunity. 
But new opportunities and new professions do not affect old traditional occupations that continue to have their old linkages such as various forms of trade and business. Though business has evolved tremendously since independence, sons and increasingly daughters tend to enter their fathers business whatever it may. Similarly, though politics has evolved tremendously since independence, with the entry of new caste groups into the political space, the natural tendency seems to be for progeny to enter the family occupation whether it is industry, services or politics.  Thus politics is much more like a family business than a family profession or occupation whether it is a modern one like education or a traditional one like carpenter or mason.  
  Thus to find out whether the is " too much dynasty" in politics, we need to compare the proportion of second or third generation MPs and MLAs in Parliament and legislatures with the proportion of second- third generation members holding executive positions (MDs, Presidents etc) in Public Ltd companies.  The public impression is that the degree of dynastic succession is greater in politics than in business.  We need a proper study to find out  whenter this is really true (and statistically significantly). [bit.ly/10sejuk]

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