« Back to articlePrint this article

Did Modi Slip Up On Dynasty Politics?

October 13, 2023 11:55 IST

The PM is seen as slipping up in confidence levels as aired by his 'exposure' of the BRS on a crucial issue as alliance negotiations, which is not done under normal circumstances, observes N Sathiya Moorthy.

IMAGE: Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Prime Minister Narendra D Modi waves to BJP supporters at a public meeting in Nizamabad, Telangana, October 4, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

Targeting ruling the Bharat Rashtriya Samithi in Telangana where assembly elections are due next month, Prime Minister Narendra D Modi came down heavily on the 'dynastic politics' of BRS Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao's family.

For critics of 'dynasty politics' in Indian democracy, the PM could not have been more forthright when he disclosed that the BJP had rejected an alliance offer from the BRS only because of its inherent opposition to dynasty politics.

So far, so good, yes. But it is only good in Telangana, or the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham-ruled Tamil Nadu or Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra, not to leave out the Congress rival at the national level, which the BJP seems bent upon resurrecting... For the contradictions in the BJP's approach to dynasty politics is showing, in not faraway UP or West Bengal but closer to Telangana, in Karnataka.

Only days before Modi attacked Rao and family in Telangana, his BJP party struck an alliance for next year's parliamentary poll in Karnataka.

The BJP and the Janata Dal-Secular are now once again partners in the state.

And Modi wants not only Karnataka voters, but also those across the country to believe that the JD-S is not a dynastic party and it never ever was, either.

By comparison, the BRS has seen only two generations in politics. The JD-S has already seen three.

After founder H D Deve Gowda and his one-time chief minister son H D Kumaraswamy, the latter's son Nikhil Gowda also contested elections only to lose.

Another of Deve Gowda's sons, H D Revanna, was/is also in JD-S politics, but not a match for Kumarawamy.

Modi did not slip up there alone, granting that the voter believes that there is no dynasty politics in the BJP.

Yes, Modi, to be fair, does not have children, nor has he brought in a brother or a nephew or a niece in their place.

But there are others at top echelons whose children are also in politics.

No, not all of them are defectors from the past, to argue that 'dynasty politics' is not in the Rashtriya Swamyamsevak Sangh's blood.

There are others who have done precisely what Modi despises, but has done nothing about it in the last close to a decade of being at the top of the party and government.

But there is a greater flaw in Modi's expose vis a vis the ruling family in Telangana.

It is about his claim that the BRS had sought alliance with the BJP, but he had declined it.

As was to be expected, the BRS promptly denied Modi's claim, whatever the truth.

But the fact that Modi, of all leaders in the ruling party at the Centre, should make such a claim -- taking that it is true -- has the potential to put off prospective allies, here and elsewhere.

That is if the BJP is now or later looking for allies, pre-poll or post-poll, be it for the Lok Sabha polls for any of the many assembly elections, queuing up before and after.

Alliance negotiations are held behind the scenes and in strictest confidence.

The BJP's L K Advani and Bahujan Samaj Party founder Kanshi Ram broke the ice on Uttar Pradesh at a wedding in distant Chennai, far away from the glare of the capital's more active media.

The alliance between the two parties followed, for BSP's Mayawati to become chief minister in the mid-nineties.

On the reverse, the BJP and the NCP in Maharashtra used to be in constant negotiations in the pre-Modi era, for forming a coalition government, at the expense of the former's long-time Shiv Sena ally.

Like the Congress before it at the Centre, the BJP needed parliamentary allies for support to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

The alliance did not take off for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the NCP's Sharad Pawar had forgotten that his cadres were all tuned and trained in the Congress mould and had fought all along against the BJP and Shiv Sena, bottom up.

It meant that the cadres quietly but effectively forced Pawar to strike a post-poll alliance with the Congress, dumping the behind-the-scene negotiations with the BJP.

That was in the past, the last such attempt being made in 2004.

Even post-poll, the BJP and the NCP talked ministerial berths between polling and counting, while Sonia Gandhi's Aam Aadmi call won the voters.

The rest is history, and all references, if at all any, to the BJP-NCP talks were buried in history.

No player, then or now, including those in the breakaway party under incumbent Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, has spoken about the past.

Very few in the present BJP set-up may have known about it, or may even remember it.

Or, those from the old school BJP might have decided to stay silence, if at all they knew.

IMAGE: Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao addresses the BRS's first election public meeting in Medak, August 23, 2023. Photograph: Amit Sharma/ANI Photo

Does it mean that the BJP leadership is slipping? Or, lacking in confidence as the Modi leadership had injected the party with since 2012 or thereabouts.

The party won two successive Lok Sabha polls and a host of assembly elections from 2014 to the present on the Modi brand and none else.

The party's dependence on the Modi image and leadership is even more now than in 2014.

Thus, the BJP and even the larger Sangh Parivar continues to want Modi more than Modi needs them.

So, if Modi is seen as slipping up in confidence levels as aired by his 'exposure' of the BRS on a crucial issue as alliance negotiations, which is not done under normal circumstances.

Likewise, the Opposition AIADMK's open break-up with the BJP in Dravidian Tamil Nadu is seen as yet another pointer.

True, the AIADMK cadre did not have an appetite for an alliance with the BJP either for the Lok Sabha polls of 2019 or the assembly elections two years later in 2021.

It owed purely to the electoral equations centred on the minorities, and their apprehensions were proved right.

Yet, no one really expected AIADMK leader and former chief minister Edppadi K Palaniswami to snap BJP ties, that too months ahead of the LS polls, whatever the immediate reasons.

To some even in the BJP, both in the state and outside, for EPS to walk out of the alliance, that too only weeks after Modi had him seated next to him at the National Democratic Alliance leaders' meeting in Delhi, speaks volumes, going beyond the fears of the 'raids raj' that EPS has shaken away, as if it's only a speck of dust on his shirt.

IMAGE: Modi along with J P Nadda, Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and others during the BJP central election C=committee meeting at the party's headquarters in New Delhi, October 1, 2023. Photograph: Ayush Sharma/ANI Photo

The question now is if the BJP-ruled Centre would go ahead with Modi's pet theme of 'One Nation, One Vote', or revive the long-standing call for A uniform civil code, especially before the Lok Sabha polls.

In particular, the Centre's hurried initiative for getting the Women's Reservations Bill passed into law raises more questions than answers.

The women's quota law is unlike any of Modi's many political initiatives.

It is not going to be implemented until before the Lok Sabha polls of 2029, given the census and delimitation issues.

Every national discourse on the women's quota, if and when the BJP flags it as a positive gain of and for the party, will raise other questions on the inexplicable delay in national census, originally due in 2021.

Yes, Covid did interfere, but subsequent delays, attributable to next year's Lok Sabha poll, are untenable.

The census could still have continued with a parliamentary law to protect next year's Lok Sabha poll, minus the new figures, minus delimitation.

If one were to go by sketchy media, or social media, claims, and the larger seating space for MPs in the new Parliament complex, the possibility of more members could well be in the offing -- and justifiably so.

The same cannot be said about the anticipation that the census and delimitation delays owe more to with the enforcement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens, about which again there is no clarity in the Opposition as there is none seemingly on the government side, either.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

N Sathiya Moorthy, veteran journalist and author, is a Chennai-based policy analyst & political commentator.