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Nepotism in Indian Politics

Updated: Aug 8, 2021

Nepotism - a word we’ve all heard way too many times on national television but what does it mean, and what is its role in the politics of our country?

It is defined as the act of using one’s power or influence to get good jobs or unfair advantages for members of their own family. It is a form of favouritism that exists in almost all professional fields including and especially politics. A quick look at our political system at present, and even the past shows the wonders of nepotism that has come into play, and frankly, has made a mockery out of the world’s largest democracy.

Last year, nepotism was discussed front and centre in public discourse as celebrities and politician’s actions and lives were dissected and examined. The final judgment by the public was that the root cause of all evil stemmed from nepotism. Which is quite ironic since we all are products of nepotism in some way or another.

It can be argued that the common man cannot be compared to a politician and that their struggles and achievements are not the same. But it cannot be denied that our political system thrives on dynasty politics which is harmful and poses as a threat to our democracy. To put it into numerical context, An analysis done by India Spends whose dataset contains the biographical profiles of all 4,807 parliamentarians since India’s first parliament in 1952; results show that since the year 1999 - the Congress has had 36 dynastic MPs while BJP had 31 dynastic MPs elected to the Lok Sabha. In the year 2014, statistics show that about 130 MPs had some form of political connection or lineage.

Nepotism is not just a part of Indian politics, but continue to trouble our western counterparts as well. For instance, Ivanka Trump served as the senior advisor to the U.S. president, who coincidentally (or not) happened to be her father. One can argue that her qualification of being a graduate from The Wharton School of Business might have come in handy but the fact that she was his daughter made her a more suitable candidate for the role.

This is not to say that only the two major political parties partake and indulge in the unending loop of nepotism but it can be seen in several, regional and smaller parties as well. A major reason that can be attributed to the success of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaign in the 2014 elections as well as in 2019 was because of his crusade against dynastic politics. The general consensus is that dynastic rule is wrong is looked down upon but as the above figures show - nepotism is well and thriving in India.

Patrick French, a British writer, historian, and academician conducted a study of the Indian Parliament in 2011 and discovered that 100% of MPs in that year pertaining to the lower house of Parliament were from families with a political background. He used the term “hereditary” and stated that if this trend continued most members of the Indian Parliament would be there by heredity alone, and the nation would regress back to being ruled by a hereditary monarch and assorted Indian princelings.

Experience from the past and the trajectory of the political future shows that India might be moving towards French’s prediction. It is important to understand that nepotism weakens the foundation of merit and calibre. It robs deserving candidates of opportunities and kills the spirit of healthy competition. One’s qualifications and eligibility rights are forgotten unless they come attached with a renowned and respected surname and recommendation.

Nepotism is not just cronyism or favouritism but sheer corruption since it is a gateway for corrupt, dishonest politicians to enter the field and take advantage of India’s naivety. Politics is a side hustle for most MPs as after they’re elected, they do whatever it takes to reach the top and take bribes shamelessly and pass down this horrible tradition to their heirs. Unimaginable wealthy and living a life full of privilege, these deceitful “leaders” mock the principle and value our country was built on.

Being an elected leader of the country means making decisions and prioritising the needs of the nation over oneself. Propagating nepotism and giving important roles to individuals (family & friends) with little to no experience can result in poor work quality. A self-made person loses out on opportunities they rightfully deserve to a well-established heir of some influential politician.

While it may seem like a petty issue, it’s crucial that we elect leaders who actually are morally sound and whose intentions are for the betterment of the nation. The only way to work toward equality for all the citizens of the country is to elect qualified and experienced individuals whose success does not rely on their surname.

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