By Dilip Bobb
As the enigmatic Rahul Gandhi continues to head a headless party, a highly informative paper by Siddharta George of Harvard University, is worth examining. George uses data on the family background of members in successive Lok Sabhas to debunk the generally accepted theory that dynastic rule in India is on the way out. His paper shows that dynastic representation in Parliament is alive and well, and includes members of parliament belonging to the BJP. His research is fascinating, showing that politics is significantly more dynastic than other occupations in democratic societies. Individuals are, on average, five times more likely to enter an occupation their father was in. But having a politician father raises one’s odds of entering politics by 110 times, more than double the dynastic bias of other elite occupations like medicine and law. His conclusion, however, is significant and pointed—that inherited political capital allows descendants to persist in power even when they underperform.
That is the classic dilemma facing Rahul. He underperformed because his party underperformed, at the local workers level to chief ministers and senior party colleagues. By taking the entire blame on his shoulders, Rahul’s penance is only making matters worse, for himself, the party that is likely to fall apart without his leadership, and for those members of the “Khan Market Gang” all over the country who strongly believe in a secular democratic country and a liberal society. India needs a left-of-centre Congress that is alive and kicking, and Rahul definitely needs to heed the words of Robin Sharma, a Canadian leadership guru and author (The Monk who sold his Ferrari). “Leadership is not a popularity contest; it’s about leaving your ego at the door.”