The expulsion of a seasoned politician, Amar Singh from Samajwadi Party once again proved that another political "outsider" had fallen a victim of dynastic politics. While he too claimed that his departure is only because the Samajwadi party has become a family empire. Though, Mulayam Singh Yadav, grassroots leader, UP's ultimate political prizefighter, once a fierce critic of the Congress dynasty, has not only created his own ruling Yadav dynasty in the Samajwadi party but also made sure that, irrespective of whether or not it makes political sense, son Akhilesh will be his chosen heir. After all, Amar Singh, despite being branded a political fixer, was a resourceful, energetic, Urbane English-speaking face of a party which needed to build bridges across UP's caste and community divisions. It was in the Amar-Mulayam era that the Samajwadi party emerged as a dominant force in UP, increasing its vote share and emerging even ahead of the formidable Mayawati in the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
The more complex case is, of course, of the original grand old party, the Indian National Congress. Born of the freedom movement, during which millions of Indians lined up to become members, the post-independence Congress was expected to symbolize the heartbeat of the new-born democracy and literally bring power to the people. Instead, particularly in the last decades, the Congress leadership, both at the states and centre, has been monopolized by the khaas admi or the Holy cows: defined as those who belong to privileged political families.
Political observers believe that the process of turning India into a dynastic democracy began with Indira Gandhi, whose decision to virtually hand over the Congress to son Sanjay in 1975 resulted in not just the imposition of Emergency, but also in the institutionalization of family rule. The seven year reign of PV Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesri must now be seen as an aberration, with the rise of Sonia Gandhi and her incredible success in holding the party together, only reconfirming the belief that the Congress is best run by single family control.
Rahul Gandhi has indicated that he would like to change the power equations, that he would like to 'open up' the Congress to new talent. But a majority of the 'young' MPs who have emerged as the party's next line of leaders are the sons and daughters of prominent Congressmen. Congressmen must beware of the Dhritarashtra syndrome: political legacies may not be best served by political bloodlines.