Monday, September 24, 2007

Gandhi dynastic rule inevitable in India

Rahul Gandhi, son of Sonia Gandhi, President of the ruling Congress party in India, has been appointed General Secretary of the party.

The two top party posts are now in the hands of the Gandhi family, confirming that Sonia Gandhi, widow of assassinated Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, is grooming Rahul for the position of Prime Minister of the country.

The current Prime Minister of the country, Manmohan Singh, is largely seen as a place-holder for the Gandhi family. Singh was elected to the post after Sonia Gandhi backed out, following objections to a “foreigner” holding the Prime Minister’s post. Sonia Gandhi, who took Indian citizenship, was born an Italian.

After the independence of the country in 1947, Rahul Gandhi’s great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru became the Prime Minister. Except for three Congress Prime Ministers who were not from the family – Lal Bhadur Shastri, P.V. Narasimha Rao, and now Manmohan Singh, and stints by opposition leaders such as V.P. Singh, and Atal Behari Vajpayee, the top post was held by members of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

After Nehru, Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister after Shastri’s death. After Indira Gandhi’s assassination, her son Rajiv Gandhi assumed power. After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, it seemed for a while that the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty was ebbing, with Narasimha Rao becoming Prime Minister and new power centers emerging.

The dynastic control within the Congress party has been achieved because the Congress has not thrown up leaders of a national stature. Some believe that the Nehru-Gandhi lobby never allowed new leaders to emerge.

India has a strong democracy, and voters have often ousted leaders, like Indira Gandhi, when they over-stepped their limits or failed to deliver. But the country's political parties lack democracy within the parties which has perpetuated family rule in the Congress, and a geriatric leadership in the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The Congress currently runs a coalition government in India with the communists and regional parties. The Gandhis have proven to be crowd-pullers for the Congress, particularly with India’s rural masses. The main opposition, the BJP, is currently in disarray, and does not have a charismatic leader to lead the party in the next election. Rahul Gandhi, who was put in charge of local assembly elections in a key state of Uttar Pradesh earlier this year, was however a disappointment, as the Congress was routed by a local party.

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