India Insight

It’s all in the family: India’s love for dynasties

Rahul Gandhi is now vice president of the Congress party. Anyone who has been following Indian politics will know that this was inevitable. Despite royal titles having been abolished, Indians can’t seem to give up on the idea of dynastic rule.

Whether it’s politics, business, or even Bollywood, Indians seem to have trust issues with anyone who is not their offspring, preferring to hand over the reins to their sons and daughters, irrespective of whether they might be deserving or not. The desire to make it merely on the basis of family name is reflected in a commonly heard boast at parties or dinner conversation: “Do you know who my father is?”

The Nehru-Gandhi family is of course the most prominent political dynasty in the country with four generations of the family having ruled the country, but they are not the only ones. There are several dynasties across party lines all over the country. Here are some of them:

The Yadavs: Mulayam Singh Yadav, for long one of the most prominent leaders in Uttar Pradesh, handed over the reins of the state to his son Akhilesh Yadav when the party won elections in the state last year. Akhilesh had been a member of parliament but never held any state government post. He became the youngest chief minister of UP at the age of 38.

The Thackerays: One of Sonia Gandhi’s fiercest critics, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray slammed her and her family for running a “fiefdom” and then went ahead and did exactly the same thing. In 2004, Thackeray declared son Uddhav, a political novice, as leader of his right-wing party which has strong roots in Maharashtra. This angered another family member – nephew Raj – who left to form his own party. Uddhav, meanwhile, is carrying on in the footsteps of his father – grooming his son Aditya to take control of the party in the future.

Rahul Gandhi takes first step in race to be India’s next PM

It’s the news some Congress leaders have waited for with bated breath. On Saturday, spokesman Janardhan Dwivedi announced the party’s decision to make Rahul Gandhi its vice-president.

Pressure had been mounting on the “young emperor” from within the troubled party to take charge. For years, Gandhi had shown no inclination to do so. But with his formal promotion to the party’s number two position next to mother Sonia, the 42-year-old is ready to claim the throne of the world’s largest democracy in the 2014 elections.

Here’s the latest from around the web.

Major changes in Congress with Rahul Gandhi as vice-president

Rahul’s elevation in Congress comes as no surprise: BJP

Congress gives Rahul Gandhi official status to take major decisions: Samajwadi Party

Delhi rape: what it says about us Indians

 Demonstrators run and throw stones towards the police during a protest in front of India Gate in New Delhi December 23, 2012. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

We Indians are an angry people now. Thousands of people have poured into the streets, indignant and outraged over the savage case of rape and assault on a young woman in New Delhi.

That anger degenerated this week into hysteria and bloodlust, with calls for capital punishment and castration of the rapists. The Internet was flooded with comments urging public hanging and beatings. One response on an Internet forum suggested that Delhi men be raped so that “the problem can be solved”; another advocated the rapists be urinated upon.

Delhi gang rape: protests for women’s rights attract politicking instead

(The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

The perfect recipe of a bad curry is to do everything right, then add one wrong ingredient, or add the right ingredient in the wrong amount. In this case, the ingredient is the mango, or as they call it in Hindi, “aam.”

I attended a candlelight vigil on Sunday night in Bangalore to stand up for women’s rights in India. The vigil was a peaceful version of the protests that have swept the nation after six men were accused of gang-raping and battering a 23-year-old medical student in New Delhi last Sunday.

Narendra Modi, the BJP and the prime minister’s chair

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

Speculation has been rife lately within India’s centre-right nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), over who will be its candidate for prime minister in the 2014 general elections.

There were four possible candidates a few months back, but the choice seems to have narrowed to Narendra Modi, the controversial chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, or Sushma Swaraj, the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s parliament.

Window closing on Prime Minister Singh’s planned visit to Pakistan

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Thomson Reuters)

It is eerily quiet on the fenced border between India and Pakistan in the southern plains of Jammu and Kashmir. Farmers are planting paddy, you can hear the sound of traffic in the distance from both sides of the border, and sometimes the squeals of children. Overhead in high watchtowers that can be seen from a mile, soldiers peer through binoculars at the enemy across while in the rear just behind the electrified fence with its array of Israeli-supplied sensors, soldiers are strung out in a line of bunkers. It’s a cold peace on one of the world’s most militarised frontiers.

Now the young chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, wants to change that, by cracking open the border and allowing the movement of people and trade through a road and rail route that have been shut since Partition in 1947.

A user’s guide to India’s cabinet reshuffle

(Opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters.)

In what is most likely the last cabinet reshuffle for the UPA-II government  before the 2014 general elections, 22 ministers were sworn in at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Sunday.

Here is the background, as explained by Frank Jack Daniel and Mayank Bhardwaj of Reuters:

Women shouldn’t have mobile phones, politicians should: politician

Witness the latest public relations trap for a loose-lipped Indian politician, courtesy of the Deccan Chronicle:

BSP MP Rajpal Saini has now launched a tirade against mobile phones and has publicly declared that women and children do not need mobile phones… “Why do housewives and school going girls need mobiles? It encourages them to make futile small talk and get connected with people outside their homes.”

Mobile phones distract women, Saini said, and offer nothing useful for them, the Chronicle reported.

The race for India’s next prime minister

With the Congress-led coalition government more than halfway through its five-year term, the political temperature is heating up in the world’s largest democracy. The question on everyone’s minds is — who’s going to be the next prime minister?

A recent Nielsen survey had showed Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi was the top choice for the post, ahead of Congress party scion Rahul Gandhi and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.

But last week’s conviction of a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker in the Gujarat riots is a blow to Modi, and the political fallout from the case may have dented his hopes of sitting in the prime minister’s chair.

Why Team Anna’s political plunge deserves India’s vote

Members of Team Anna, the group whose anti-corruption mission last year became one of India’s biggest social movements, will form a political party to try to fix the system from the inside.

The move follows the group’s latest and perhaps least effective hunger strike in New Delhi to try to force the government into accepting their demand of creating an anti-corruption ombudsman post. Such a move looks unlikely at best.

With signs of agitation fatigue among the public and a government refusing to play ball, the movement led by Gandhian activist Anna Hazare has decided to provide a “political alternative”. Hazare on Monday officially disbanded the team to pave the way for the formation of this as yet unnamed party.

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