Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Democratic feudalism

India is heading toward democratic feudalism. While the channels speak of a youth vote, it really was a vote for second, third or fourth generation political strongmen and women. Gandhi, Abdullah, Pilot, Scindia, those are the names of the smart young leaders of today, many of whom are poised to take over ministries in this administration. They were also the names of the smart young men of the 1980s. Regional leaders like Sharad Pawar, Karunanidhi, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Sheila Dixit and Deve Gowda are preparing to pass on the baton to their sons, daughters, sons-in-law, while, in Bombay, the daughter of Sunil Dutt and the son of Murli Deora have won for a second time. The trend goes deeper than readily recognisable names. This morning's Times of India carries a story about four young female newcomers to parliament, Mausam Noor, Meenakshi Natarajan, Jyoti Mirdha, and Shruti Choudhry. Of them Shruti is grand-daughter of Bansi Lal, and daughter of Kiran Choudhry; Mausam, niece of Ghani Khan Chowdhury; and Jyoti grand-daughter of five time MP Nathuram Mirdha.
There seems no room for a new Sharad Pawar, Rajesh Pilot, Lalu Yadav or Ram Vilas Paswan to emerge. These people, and dozens of others like them, began from ordinary, even humble, beginnings and went on to establish a significant political base through the power of their personalities, their charisma, ambition and shrewdness.
We've seen a takeover by families happen in the Hindi film industry. Thirty years ago, there was one major khaandaan in films, the Kapoors, just as there was one dominant family in poliics, the Gandhis. Now the upper echelon of Bollywood consists almost entirely of sons, daughters, nephews and cousins, and the election of 2009 has advanced the process considerably within the political space.
To find people making it on sheer merit, one needs to look to cricket. Gavaskar Jr. might have gt more international games than he strictly deserved, but he was never more than a marginal figure. I can't think of any second generation batsman or bowler playing a major role in the current IPL. The very names of the teams, however, give away our feudal longings. Of eight sides in the fray, five have names with feudal connections: Rajasthan Royals, Royal Challengers, Knight Riders, Kings IX (or rather, Kings XI, my mistake, pointed out by Anonymous) and Super Kings.


fob said...

About the 'feudal longings' you are right on the bull's eye.

Jabeen said...

Indian cricket, luckily, has a well established and rather complex system of selecting players based on their performances in smaller matches all over the country, with a network of regional selectors. I guess that reduces the chances of nepotism succeeding.

Also in sports, unlike the movies or elections, players win or lose right there on the field irrespective of the sentiments of the public. Even if people had liked Rohan Gavaskar's looks or were fans of his dad, he had to get runs to survive. The film industry has had a few such failures - Tushar Kapoor, Uday Chopra, Fardeen Khan - but the sad thing is that so many talented 'outsiders' never even get a chance

Anonymous said...

the kings 9 ?? no wonder they are out

Girish Shahane said...

Damn those Roman numerals :)

S Bhadra said...

Cricket or perhaps sports in general exposes, non-performers, because the causal relationship between players and performances is easily established. Not so in movies, corporates and politics. Flop movies, loss making companies and lost elections can plausibly be attributed to multiple factors, selectively, in order to deflect blame or acknowledge credit. And eventually, the feudals get enough chances for familiarity to breed comfort.

Girish Shahane said...

Yup, sport comes with an objective system of valuation built in, makes all the difference.