'Incompetent dynasts can lead to national ruin,' says Colonel Anil A Athale (retd).
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh
Politics, Bollywood and Cricket.
By all accounts, these three are the most lucrative careers in India.
Nepotism is the common thread in all the three fields with dynasties ruling the roost.
With lure of money, fame and ego satisfaction, every parent wants its ward to follow in its footsteps.
In all traditional societies, it is a naturally occurring phenomenon that the children tend to follow their parents' professions.
When the choices were limited and the world was in its agricultural epoch, the perfection that one attained in a skill was valuable.
This was the origin of 'Jati (or caste) in India.
But the Industrial Age and the advent of science and technology changed all that and there was a great mobility of professions.
Democracy, which swore by equality and fraternity, was an antidote to the old notions of inherited privilege. Yet it cannot be denied that much of society does have various dynasties.
The skyline of our cities are dotted with posters of these dynasties during every election from local bodies to Parliament.
Grandsons claim a legacy of 'sacrifices' made a century earlier to claim public office.
What facilitates the rise of dynasties in politics is the parent's control over money, power and the party machine.
Politics stands apart from the other two in the virtual 100% success rate of dynasts in grabbing power.
The Congress party -- that was born out of the freedom movement -- has refined this concept to a fine art.
Statistics shows that close to 70% of its legislators at one time were 'dynasts'.
Like any feudal set-up, the succession is mostly from father to son.
It is not that just the prime minister's post is reserved for a family, even other appointments like state chief ministers or state party chiefs are similarly 'reserved' for political progeny.
Ordinarily, dynasty-ism is an internal matter for a political party, but in this case it has wider repurcussions.
Nepotism rules, so merit has no chance and hence there has been a steady exodus from the party.
As the country's principal Opposition party, this is detrimental for the health of Indian democracy. India needs a strong Opposition.
A dynastic party like Congress cannot fulfill that role and is dying slowly.
It is easy to point to the other walks of life to justify dynastic succession. But nepotism in cricket at worst can lead to the country losing a match or two.
In the case of Bollywood, at worst we would be inflicted with lousy cinema.
But in the case of politics, incompetent dynasts can lead to national ruin.
In the 1990s, India saw great political instability. Prime ministers (of a non-dynastic variety) governed the country for brief periods, often with very shaky majorities.
Yet, all of us who lived through those times recall that no sooner had the incumbents come to grip with the situation, they proved effective prime ministers.
In all these cases, the dynastic Congress got nervous and pulled the rug from under the feet of Chandra Shekhar, I K Gujral and H D Deve Gowda.
The Congress party is not merely a dynastic party, it is also guilty of parachuting these worthies into positions of authority at the cost to the country.
Remember that even in traditional monarchies like Britain, the royal family ensures that the future king serves in the army to gain firsthand experience and also establish his credentials.
Imagine a situation in say the Indian Army where all promotions are based on lineage, a general's son becoming a general, even without spending a single day in the lower ranks and all ranks becoming hereditary!
Such an army will never win any war.
As a student of history, it is precisely this disease that afflicted the Marathas in the 19th century that led to their decline under the hereditary Peshwas (prime ministers) and ultimate downfall.
No wonder many believe the Congress is in terminal decline!