On 'yuva' netas from old clans

Shiv Visvanathan
Shiv VisvanathanNov 07, 2019 | 11:23

On 'yuva' netas from old clans

India is a country of paradoxes and oxymorons, both of which perpetually confront modernisation theorists. These sociologists feel one should move from patriarchy to an impersonal bureaucracy, from tradition to modernity. In India, tradition redomesticates modernity to create new hybridities.

Political lineage

The family, instead of being on the decline, becomes a metaphor for politics and bureaucracy. As a society, we merge contradictions to create new possibilities, new innovations which still smell of old pathologies. The family creates a new grammar for old and new, because Indian families are protean entities.


Let me emphasise that the BJP targeted Rahul Gandhi as a symptom of dynastic politics, but it has little to say about the Chautalas, the Pawars or the Reddys. Dynasties still run Indian politics. The old does not fade away, but youth emerges as old wine in new bottles. Nepotism seems to find a creative surge in the 'politics of youth'. One sees this clearly in two electoral events, first in Maharashtra and Haryana.

The BJP targeted Rahul Gandhi as a symptom of dynastic politics but ignored the others. (Photo: Reuters)

In Maharashtra, politics received a surge of energy in the election of Aaditya Thackeray. The Thackerays bossed over Mumbai without ever getting elected. But Aaditya represents change and the unchanging in his self. He is Bal Thackeray's grandson and also the first Thackeray to win an election. Aaditya, in that sense, represents hope in the shrinking world of the Shiv Sena. He is seen as new and excites with his newness, his youth.

And yet, it is his vintage quality that wins him his election. Today, India wants to emphasise youth at least at the level of image if not decision making. Thackeray exudes the new as youth but also smells of genealogy. Politics becomes a bit of a TV serial with the third generation taking over old plots, tweaking it a bit to add a touch of novelty and surprise.


Yet what looks like front stage novelty, fades, one sees the backstage efforts by old politicians. Aaditya seems to be surviving on the seva done by earlier stalwarts. Shiv Sena has become a habit in some constituencies and Aaditya becomes a new costume for an old habit. It is almost as if we respond to old problems with the same solutions. Yet it is not, as if change is not happening. The Shiv Sena as a party is shrinking, its impact blunted by a more vociferous BJP. The Shiv Sena as a party ruled through tantrums and diktats, but for the first time, instead of being big brother it confronts the BJP as one. The latter is less tolerant of its tantrums than other parties.

Sena scion

Yet what Aaditya Thackeray offers is the possibility of the new, a sense of surprise. India seems to love the idea of old wine in new bottles, even as the Shiv Sena throws its tantrums demanding a 50:50 share of power. In an Orwellian sense, it claims that some politicians are more equal than others. The case of the Chautalas is a different version of the same serial. The cast, or should one say the caste, of characters is slightly different. While the Shiv Sena faces a shrinking electorate, Dushyant Chautala faces a divided family. Divided families, at times, provide a greater impetus to politics than ideology or policy controversy. The family still has an alchemical power in providing an open sesame to politics. The family as an entity provides a grammar to politics we have not codified. The word 'nepotism' as a label does not quite explain the factionalism or unity of family dynamics.


Divided families, at times, provide a greater impetus to politics than ideology or policy controversy. (Photo: Facebook/@dcchautala)

The new Chautala

Dushyant is grandson of OP Chautala, a doyen of Haryana politics. Dushyant's father Ajay is in jail for corruption. The family which created the Indian National Lok Dal split in 2018, creating a separate entity called the Jannayak Janta Party. His uncle heads the opposing faction. Yet, party and family seem to work at different levels. As Dushyant himself summed it, "The family is united, only the party is different." It almost seems to say that the Chautalas are the same wine in different bottles.

The brothers meet convivially on Ram Ramo, a day after Diwali at the Chautala family farmhouse in Sirsa, while Ajay kept a ritual distance. It almost appears like a game of musical chairs as Dushyant plays deputy chief minister and father and grandfather serve time in jail. Ajay Chautala was released from jail on a 14 days furlough to attend his son's swearing in ceremony. It almost feels as if there is a cyclic rotation of power, where the family is supreme regardless of the rotations of politics. India gives a new meaning to the power of youth and nepotism, where old is new and new is old, and ever the twain shall meet. As an acute observer put it, only in India can youth be vintage and new, and balance both in a drama we called politics.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Last updated: November 07, 2019 | 11:23
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