BJP says it doesn’t believe in dynastic politics, but its list of dynast leaders is ever-growing

New Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai is the latest addition to the list of dynasts in a party that calls dynastic politics the 'biggest enemy' of democracy. Here's a list of 25 such leaders.

Illustration: Soham Sen/ThePrint
Illustration: Soham Sen/ThePrint

New Delhi: Newly appointed Karnataka Chief Minister, Basavaraj Bommai, is the latest addition to a lengthening list of dynasts in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which believes that dynastic politics is the “biggest enemy” of democracy.

Basavaraj’s father, S.R. Bommai, was the chief minister of Karnataka in 1988-89, making them the second father-son duo, after H.D. Deve Gowda and H.D. Kumaraswamy, to occupy the CM’s chair in Karnataka.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been attacking dynastic politics, saying that it gives rise to a new form of dictatorship in democracy and burdens the country with incompetence.

But his dislike for dynasties hasn’t come in the way of inducting dynasts into the BJP or in his own team of ministers. Many prominent faces in his own Cabinet come from political families — Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan, Anurag Thakur, Nirmala Sitharaman, Kiren Rijiju and Jyotiraditya Scindia.

The BJP has adopted a pragmatic approach when it comes to promoting dynasts within the party and importing them from the opposition camp. Last month, the BJP welcomed Jitin Prasada, son of prominent Congress leader Jitendra Prasada, into the party fold.

Ahead of the West Bengal assembly election, the party inducted CM Mamata Banerjee’s former aide, Suvendu Adhikari, and also his father, former union minister Sisir Adhikari. Suvendu Adhikari went on to become the Leader of Opposition in the state assembly.

BJP leaders, however, reject suggestions of their party professing one thing and practising something else.

“What is important to note is who runs the show in a party. Amit Shah ji used to be the president. Now it’s J.P. Nadda ji, not Amit Shah ji’s son. You don’t get a post because of your political background. Take the example of Anurag Thakur who has made his own way. His father is not a chief minister now. But through his hard work he has progressed,” said R.P. Singh, a national spokesperson of the BJP.

“As far as Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is concerned, they have positions of power because of their mother, father, and grandmother. Bommai is not there because of his political family background. He has been chosen as the CM due to his capabilities. Ultimately, it’s political and administrative performance, which become the deciding factor,” Singh added.

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The dynast argument

In the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, Modi, then the BJP’s PM candidate, taunted the Gandhi family, referring to Rahul Gandhi as “shehzada” and the then UPA government as “Delhi sultanate”.

“While the country has been destroyed by the governments of mother and son, Uttar Pradesh has been destroyed by a father-son government,” Modi had said during his campaign in Uttar Pradesh, referring also to the Samajwadi Party duo of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav.

Modi and his party colleagues have continued to train guns at the opposition parties for promoting dynastic culture even as members from prominent political families continue to join and thrive in the BJP. 

ThePrint had reported in 2019 that around 11 per cent of the BJP MPs — 45 — had a dynastic background.

In the 2019 Maharashtra and Haryana assembly elections, the BJP and the Congress seemed to be in competition when it came to fielding dynasts. Seventeen of the 29 dynasts the BJP fielded across Maharashtra and Haryana won. The figure for the Congress stood at 21 out of 36.

“As if they didn’t have their own dynasts in Dushyant, Pankaj Singh, Anurag Thakur, Punam Mahajan, Jayant Sinha, Pravesh Verma and so on, the BJP is also importing dynasts from other parties. Now they have another dynast as CM of Karnataka in Bommai,” said senior Congress leader Pawan Khera.

“Between in-house dynasts and imported dynasts, BJP has more dynasts than the Congress. They should stop using this stale bogey of dynastic politics against Congress. It sounds hypocritical and boring,” he added.

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Is there a difference?

Rahul Verma, fellow at the Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, pointed out that around 30 per cent of the MPs are from political families if the last three Lok Sabhas are considered.

“The cadre-based parties like the BJP and CPM have slightly lower representation of dynasts, but even these parties have a significant number of politicians belonging to such families,” said Verma.

“As far as the induction of dynasts like Jyotiraditya Scindia or promotion of B. Bommai as the chief minister in Karnataka is concerned, its impact on the BJP and Modi’s politics of attacking political dynasties will be zero. The BJP will keep inducting dynasts as long as it can take advantage by having such leaders on board. At the same time, they will keep attacking Rahul Gandhi and the regional parties for dynastic culture,” he added.

Verma, however, pointed out a difference between the BJP and the opposition parties in terms of the importance of dynasts. 

“The Congress and other regional parties are dynastic in nature i.e. the party organisation is controlled by a single family. For example, in the case of a Samajwadi party, Trinamool Congress, or the DMK, the president (or the main leader) of the party as well as the chief minister-designate come from the same party,” he said.

“As far as the impact of political dynasties on Indian democracy is concerned, if more political family members continue to be wooed by political parties across the spectrum then it will create more barriers for commoners to enter the electoral arena as political families have more access to all kinds of resources that puts them in an advantageous position,” he added.

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The BJP dynasts

Here are 25 prominent dynasts of the BJP, which ThePrint has selected out of a long list:

Jyotiraditya Scindia, Union Minister

Scindia is the son of the late Madhavrao Scindia, the former Congress leader and Union minister, and grandson of the late Vijayaraje Scindia, the Jana Sangh/Janata Party/BJP stalwart. He is the Union minister for Civil Aviation. He rebelled against the Congress in March last year and joined the BJP with 22 Congress MLAs, toppling the Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh.

Anurag Thakur, Union Minister

Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting and Youth Affairs & Sports, he is the son of former Himachal Pradesh CM Prem Kumar Dhumal.

Piyush Goyal, Union Minister

Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs and Food and Public Distribution and Textiles. He is son of late Ved Prakash Goyal, former BJP national treasurer and union minister.

Dharmendra Pradhan, Union Minister

Union minister of Education and Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Pradhan is the son of Debendra Pradhan, a BJP leader who also served as a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. 

Kiren Rijiju, Union Minister

He was recently made the minister of law and justice and is the son of Rinchin Kharu, who was the first pro-tem speaker of Arunachal Pradesh.

Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister

Her husband, Parakala Prabhakar, was with the Congress and unsuccessfully contested assembly elections from Andhra Pradesh’s Narsapur on a Congress ticket.

Pema Khandu, Chief Minister

He is the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, and son of former state CM Dorjee Khandu.

Suvendu Adhikari, Leader of Opposition, West Bengal assembly

He is the son of former minister and MP Sisir Adhikari. 

Devendra Fadnavis, Leader of Opposition, Maharashtra assembly

The former Maharashtra CM is the son of Gangadharpant Fadnavis, who was a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council. Devendra’s aunt Shoba Fadnavis was a state minister.

Vivek Thakur, MP

He is the son of five-time MP and renowned physician C.P. Thakur, who served as the Union health minister under Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Neeraj Shekhar, MP

The son of former prime minister Chandra Shekhar was a sitting Rajya Sabha MP from the Samajwadi Party but switched to the BJP and became a member of the Upper House again. He joined the BJP in July 2019.

Nabam Rebia, MP

Former speaker in the Arunachal Pradesh assembly from the Congress, whose brother Nabam Tuki served as CM, Rebia was elected to the Rajya Sabha on a BJP ticket in June 2020.

Parvesh Verma, MP

Son of former Delhi chief minister, Sahib Singh Verma, Pravesh Verma is an MP from the West Delhi Lok Sabha constituency.

Dushyant Singh, MP

He is Lok Sabha MP from Jhalawar-Baran in Rajasthan and son of former Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje.

Poonam Mahajan, MP

She is Lok Sabha MP from Mumbai North Central, and daughter of late Union minister Pramod Mahajan.

Jayant Sinha, MP

He is Lok Sabha MP and son of former Union minister Yashwant Sinha.

Varun Gandhi, MP

He is Lok Sabha MP from Pilibhit and son of fellow BJP MP Maneka Gandhi.

Heena Gavit, MP

Heena Gavit is an MP from Nandurbar constituency. She is the daughter of Vijaykumar Gavit, a BJP and former Nationalist Congress Party MLA from the same constituency.

Sunny Deol, MP

His father, Dharmendra, was a BJP MP from Rajasthan.

Rita Bahuguna Joshi, MP

She is the daughter of former Uttar Pradesh CM Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna.

Diya Kumari, MP

Her grandmother Maharani Gayatri Devi was an MP.

Sangeeta Singh Deo, MP

Her husband, Kanak Vardhan Singh Deo, was a Cabinet minister in the Naveen Patnaik government. 

B.Y. Raghvendra, MP

He is the son of former Karnataka CM B.S. Yediyurappa.

Pritam Munde, MP

She is the daughter of former union minister late Gopinath Munde.

Pankaj Singh, MLA

Pankaj Singh is an MLA from Noida in Uttar Pradesh and son of Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

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