Sons of politicians in the heart of India are increasingly visible in the public sphere as Assembly polls draw near
Jaivardhan, the son of the former Chief Minister, Digvijay Singh, on Saturday formally joined the Congress party in his father’s pocket borough Raghogarh in Madhya Pradesh’s Guna district. The 27-year-old MBA-holder from New York’s Columbia University had been waiting in the wings to reign in Raghogarh — a former princely state ruled by his family.
He had joined the Youth Congress in 2010 and had taken a padyatra (campaign on foot) in the constituency, staying in Dalit and Adivasi homes. During his investiture on June 12, incumbent Congress MLA Mool Singh, who is recovering from a stroke, said Jaivardhan would have to now share the burden of the party. It was nothing less than a coronation for the young Congressman, who already has a bodyguard and a medical van.
Jaivardhan is a part of Madhya Pradesh’s jet set, whose visibility in public functions has been on the rise as the Assembly polls draw near. This group includes Pradesh Congress Committee president Kantilal Bhuria’s son Vikrant, Industries Minister Kailash Vijayvargiya’s son Akash, Vidhan Sabha Speaker Ishwardas Rohani’s son Ashok, Sports Minister Tukoji Rao Pawar’s son Vikram and a dozen other children of MLAs, Ministers and MPs. A number of them, such as Jaivardhan and Vikram, are from families of former royals — a valued qualification in the State.
Vikrant Bhuria, currently in the Youth Congress, is tipped to contest from Jhabua. He now runs a nursing home in the district headquarters after having earlier worked in a government hospital. “That was the best place to come in contact with the people,” he told The Hindu. “I helped people from rural areas find their way around and get the medical attention they needed. I also began to understand their aspirations.”
Mr. Vikrant found the major reason for high infant and maternal mortality in the State was illiteracy and poor implementation of public healthcare. “Doctors won’t go to villages as they are paid too [little] and Adivasis go to quacks as they can’t afford to lose their daily wages by going to a town hospital. “I didn’t plan to become a politician. It just turned out that way. I’ve seen my father serve the people all his life. I want to ease his burden serve more people than just my patients. I want to bring jobs and good schools to the tribal belt and see to it the doctors are paid better,” he said.
Ashok Rohani, a BJP district general secretary in Jabalpur is expecting a ticket from the city. “I did not have to struggle to enter politics. I run a notebook-manufacturing business and do party-work alongside. My father has worked here for a long time so people know me too. Party workers don’t resent me as I did not directly go seek an MLA ticket. I worked in the party, then got elected to the municipal corporation and now I am an office-bearer.”
Many of the other young aspirants are merely Page-3 headliners, finding mention in the news for the wrong reasons. Last year, Vikram Pawar drove his Willys jeep into a lamppost in Dewas during the day, as a result of reported brake failure. He was unhurt and the police didn’t prosecute him. In 2008, a biker in Bhopal was killed after being run over by an SUV owned by Siddharth Malaiya, the son of Water Resources Minister Jayant Malaiya. The driver went to jail. Siddharth is active in the BJP’s Damoh unit.
As president of the MP Junior Doctors Association in 2010, Mr. Vikrant Bhuria led a successful strike during a dengue epidemic that led to the reduction of the mandatory rural service period for post graduate medical students of public colleges from two years to one year. “It was injustice. Private medical college students were directly going for specialisation without any mandatory service requirement. We wanted a level playing field,” he said.
Political columnist N.D. Sharma explains that the phenomenon of inheriting seats is deeply ingrained in the political psyche of North India. “People will vote for Jaivardhan in Raghogarh because he is Digvijay’s son. It’s the trend everywhere — Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi. Fathers work for their children. If the party wins, personal benefits are ensured for them and their constituency.”
Unlike South India, where royal families of large States like Travancore and Mysore do not wield political clout, “here, people believe that god resides within the king even if he’s technically not a king,” says Mr. Sharma.
Some of the young guns have started early. CM Shivraj Chauhan’s son Kartikey and Union Power Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia’s son Mahanaryaman both turned 18 this year. Law student Kartikey ran a voter-awareness campaign in his father’s constituency of Budhni in Sehore district. This paper had reported about the erroneous facts stated in his speeches. Mahanaryaman also presided over a number of public functions in Shivpuri and Ashoknagar districts last year.
Requesting anonymity, a senior IAS officer said: “Even though you may write that India is changing and there’s a development mantra and whatnot, I can tell you, family lineage works here. You may have welfare schemes but dabangs [strongmen] will still win elections. People prefer familiar faces. If they know their father, they think they know the son.”