Since time immemorial Kings have ruled over the masses and perpetuated the rule of their family through dynasties. Even after the emergence of Democracy and rule of the people, powerful people have managed to devise ways to prolong their rule and concentrate power in their family through Political dynasties.
Almost all the third world democracies in the world are characterized by the presence of strong political dynasties. The Bhuttos of Pakistan or the Sinawatras of Thailand, political dynasties have long been present in democracies throughout the world. In India, the chief political dynasty is the Nehru-Gandhi family, which has dominated the politics of India since independence.
The family’s domination of the Congress party, the oldest surviving political party of India, has been supreme and everlasting. From 1919, starting with Motilal Nehru, five members of the Nehru-Gandhi family have been Congress Presidents. Out of these five members, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi have been the Prime Minister of India. It’s not only the Gandhi family which has transformed itself into a political dynasty but there are many regional examples like the Karunanidhi family of DMK in Tamil Nadu, Patnaik Family of BJD in Odisha, Yadav Family of Samajwadi Party, Lalu Prasad Yadav family of Bihar among others.
In a mature and vibrant democracy like India, it is very surprising to see such dynasties successfully augment their power base in their respective parties and concentrate power among their family members. In a democratic party it is natural and healthy to have different leaders with different viewpoints that conform to the overall ideology of a party, but in parties dominated by these powerful families you will find no rivals and everybody, in a disciplined manner, toes the line of the supreme leader. So what strengthens the power and legitimacy of these political families?
It is certainly not the respect for their past great deeds, as evident from the sorry state of affairs that existed in the country and the states during their rule. As with all dynasties, be it monarchial or Political, power is overly concentrated in the hands of few and this concentration of power leads to corruption, and it is the loot of public money which gives them huge financial clout and perpetuates their rule.
Corruption becomes the tool of power maximization and the resultant financial leverage is used to silence or win over intra-party rivals and maintain their complete supremacy in the party. No wonder, despite the presence of several experienced and capable leaders in an old and pan-India party like Congress; a young, incapable and uncharismatic ‘leader’ like Rahul Gandhi was portrayed as the Prime Ministerial candidate in the last Lok Sabha election.
As corruption becomes imperative to maintain their power and hold over the party and government, the dynasties engage in complex and well thought out strategies to amass wealth. The National Herald case, if proven an act of corruption, will point to one such attempt. In National Herald Case Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi through their privately owned company acquired a public limited company called Associated Journals Private Ltd (AJPL). Through AJPL they have acquired the right of publication of the National Herald and Quami Awaz newspapers. But the real ‘catch’ here is the real asset belonging to these newspapers which amounts to 16 billion rupees. Now these properties belong to the Gandhi family and instead of using these building only for newspaper publication, it is being used for other profitable businesses.
It is even alleged that The APJL secured a loan of 900 million at zero interest from All India Congress Committee. It is illegal for any political party to lend money for commercial purposes as per Section 29A to C of the RPA (1951) and Section 13A of IT Act (1961) . If these allegations are proved correct then it will be a clear example of how financial assets of a National Political party are being used by a Political dynasty to increase their own wealth and financial prowess. In the words of a Judge scrutinizing this case , ‘ From the complaint and the evidence led so far it appears YI (Young Indian) was in fact created as a sham or a cloak to convert public money to personal use or as a special purpose vehicle for acquiring control over Rs 2,000 crores worth of assets.’ A really well thought out strategy indeed.
The Vadra-DLF case, if found to be illegal, will highlight the various ways in which congress ‘first family’ uses political contacts and influence in furthering their own personal agendas. It is claimed that Vadra , the son in law of Sonia Gandhi, got huge interest free loans in return for possible political favors from the congress party. Vadra, it is alleged, got a loan of 65 crores from DLF and he used this money to buy DLF properties at astonishingly cheap rates. What kind of business acumen will vouch for such a deal? What has DLF achieved from it? It is very likely that DLF might have got some political favors for their gracious act.
India Against Corruption (IAC) while accusing Vadra mentioned ‘In the last 4 years, Robert Vadra has gone on a property buying binge and has purchased at least 31 properties mostly in and around New Delhi, which even at the time of their purchase were worth several hundred crores. An analysis of the balance sheets and audit reports of five companies set up by him (and owned exclusively by him and his mother) on or after November 1, 2007, show that the total share capital of these companies was just Rs 50 lakh and these companies together had no income from any legitimate business activity (except by way of interest derived from interest free loans obtained from DLF)’.
These political families in search for greater financial clout and power transform themselves into business family, albeit illegal business. The up and coming generations of their family are trained in this ‘business’. Rajiv Gandhi’s image as a clean politician is a contentious issue. According to the Kissinger Cables from the WikiLeaks, Rajiv Gandhi even before entering into politics was acting as a middleman for the Swedish Company Saab-Scania, which in the 1970’s was trying to sell its Viggen fighter aircrafts to India.
According to the Hindu; in another cable (1976NEWDE01909_b, confidential), the Swedes also made it clear they “understood the importance of family influences” in the final decision. The cable adds: “Our colleague describes Rajiv Gandhi [sic] in flattering terms, and contends his technical expertise is of a high level. This may or may not be. Offhand, we would have thought a transport pilot [is] not the best expert to rely upon in evaluating a fighter plane, but then we are speaking of a transport pilot who has another and perhaps more relevant qualification.”
In the Book Unknown Facets of Rajiv Gandhi, Jyoti Basu and Indrajit Gupta written by Ex-CBI Director A.P. Mukherjee, he mentions that Rajiv Gandhi wanted commission paid by defence suppliers to be used exclusively for the purpose of meeting expenses of running the Congress party. Mukherjee said Gandhi explained his position in a meeting on 19 June 1989, during a meeting between the two at the Prime Minister’s residence. Sonia Gandhi after coming to Power has cleared Rajiv Gandhi’s name from allegations of corruption in Bofors case but the above information suggest otherwise.
It is not only Congress but other regional parties like DMK, AIDMK etc are also engaged in corrupt practices. The recent verdict against Jayalalitha and the 2G case against A. Raja, a close aide of Karunanidhi , demonstrate the level of corruption that the parties are engaged in. Political dynasties thrive on these illegal activities.
The secret behind the Perpetual Political dynasties in the Indian Politics, that inexorably clings to power, are corruption and ‘under the table’ dealings. Whenever power is concentrated in the hands of a family, corruption is sure to follow. The unaccounted wealth that they amass through corruption is what strengthens their sway over their party and gives them undue advantage while fighting elections, which are very costly affairs.
Mao Zedong, the Communist revolutionary, had said ‘power comes through the barrel of the gun’ but when it comes to democratic India, power comes through the cash vaults of banks, possibly the Swiss banks.
By: Avinandan Choudhury
Unknown Facets of Rajiv Gandhi ~ A Book
The Richest World Leaders Are Even Richer Than You Thought, Published by Huffington Post
Rajiv Gandhi was entrepreneur for Swedish Jet, US cable says, Published by The HINDU
Court Summons Sonia, Rahul for alleged fraud, Published By Hindustan Times