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Ticket to ride

Candidates’ lists for assembly polls suggest that the BJP, too, is keeping it all in the family

By: |
January 28, 2017 12:00:03 am

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The Narendra Modi wave which swept the BJP to an unprecedented majority at the Centre owed something to the prime ministerial candidate’s assurance that the days of dynastic politics were past, and that merit alone would actuate the party and its government. The prime minister has demonstrated his personal conviction by ensuring that his siblings, his extended family and their children have not found a place in the sun under his stewardship.

However, the list of BJP candidates for the forthcoming assembly elections shows that the PM’s party does not share his commitment to keeping family apart from politics. A striking example is in Uttar Pradesh, where Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s son Pankaj Singh has filed his nomination from Noida. He is also general secretary of the state unit of the BJP. In Uttarakhand, Rajnath Singh’s relation Narayan Singh Rana faced protests when he displaced the sitting MLA, who was denied a ticket. Elsewhere in the same state, Yashpal Arya and his son Sanjeev, who switched over to the BJP, are contesting. So is Ritu Khanduri Bhushan, daughter of former chief minister B.C. Khanduri.

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It may be argued that this is par for the course. Every party — quite literally from Kashmir (National Conference) to Kanyakumari (DMK and AIADMK) — has exhibited strongly dynastic tendencies, and the Left is perhaps the only exception to the rule. Indeed, even constituents may find it comforting for candidates who have invested in them to make a bequest of them. However, having marked itself apart, if the BJP slides into this pattern, it could find itself disappointing the electorate, and those for whom it represents a window of opportunity to a more equal-access future. Keeping election tickets within the family, on the other hand, suggests that the window is closing before it has opened fully.

Indian society is now characterised by impatience in the pursuit of prosperity, equity and social and economic justice — of happiness itself. Contemporary governments see themselves as stewards and bailiffs, maintaining the level playing field on which all citizens can engage in the pursuit of happiness. If access to prosperity and dignity appear to have been sequestered by politically successful families, it must be perceived to be a failing of the government, and of the party running it. The BJP must ask itself if it can afford to let this happen.

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