Sons and daughters can be forgiven for wanting to emulate successful parents. Abhijit Mukherjee, son of President-elect Pranab Mukherjee, is reportedly keen on contesting from the Jangipur Lok Sabha seat, which was vacated by his father on being elevated to the presidency. To many in the Congress, steeped as it is in a dynastic culture, this yearning seems natural enough. But politics is not a family business for a son to make capital of the goodwill and assets of the father. In a democracy, the right to represent electors should spring from a proven track record of public service or the promise of change and not family lineage. For Abhijit to harbour such a notion diminishes the very republic which his father has just been elected to head. At present a Member of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly from the Nalhati constituency in Birbhum district, the younger Mukherjee is contemplating the switch to Jangipur in Murshidabad solely on the strength of descent. In any case, Jangipur is not his father’s pocket-borough. Whatever his political acumen, Pranab-da was no mass leader, and had to take the Rajya Sabha route to Parliament for a major part of his career. Abhijit, by all accounts, is even more handicapped in this respect.
Of course, in the Congress — and in all other parties barring the Left and, possibly, the BJP — Abhijit’s stated ambitions do not seem out of place. Indeed, the party, perhaps on account of the dynasty ensconced at the very top, has been allowing sons to take the place of their fathers as a matter of unchecked routine. Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada, and Deepender Singh Hooda, to name a few, have their lineage to thank for getting into Parliament. From other parties, we have Supriya Sule, Agatha Sangma, Dimple Yadav and more. Once in Parliament, of course, these sons, daughters and daughters-in-law do make a mark — some more than others — but so would any competent woman or man in their position. Although he is himself the chief beneficiary of this system of distributing party tickets, Rahul Gandhi did make an attempt to spread the net wider to identify young leaders but he had limited success. Just how pervasive dynasticism is can be seen by the statistics compiled by Patrick French in his book India: A Portrait: 28.6 per cent of Lok Sabha MPs have a hereditary connection as do 100 per cent of MPs under the age of 30. Such unabashed feudalism explains the low public stock of the political class, and the growing disconnect of the youth with the politics of the day. Abhijit is already an MLA, and if he believes he has done whatever he could in that position, he can surely find ways to assist his father on Raisina Hill. But the Lok Sabha is not for him as yet.