It would appear so, if one watched the analysis of the Indian elections by the electronic media. The point being made is that in the Congress party, which got the maximum number of seats in the recently concluded national elections, many youngsters who won, had some political connection. So, the conclusion being drawn is the key party in the world’s largest deomcracy is “undemocratic”.
It is well known that the Congress, largely, some regional parties and other national parties in India (even the BJP) do have the tradition of leaders passing on the mantle to the next generation. Also because the Gandhis have virtually controlled the party for decades, there is a feeling, not wihout basis, that if you are not a Gandhi, you cannot run the party.
In this context, Rahul Gandhi’s strategy of declining a position in the Cabinet, for good reason, has come as a breath of fresh air ( as one analysis said, it is strategy not sacrifice, but it still helps improve perception). His much publicised intent to democratize the Congress is an important step to open up politics to a larger section of people. At the same time, if you look at today’s youth brigade (most of whom may have some political connection or lineage) many of them have impressive qualifications and deserve their place.
Like the son or daughter of a business person having a flair for business, or a musician’s child taking to music, or children of sportspeople or actors following their parents’ footsteps, politics as a career may also be “inherited” provided the next generation has the necessary skills – examples include Sachin Pilot or Jyotiraditya Scindia. The last is very important. In the past, it was sufficient that you were just a son or a daughter, niece or nephew, of a politician. That is changing, it needs to change more. Also politics needs to be made more attractive for an average Indian to pursue as a career. Today, most middle class Indians are wary of entering politics for many reasons. Thus, Rahul Gandhi’s intent assumes great significance and if he does succeed, that is one way to reduce the domination of political families in the long run.
At the same time, I think in India, we need to adopt an approach that works for us- if we do have a tradition of family based professions; let us take advantage of that. However, we also need to work hard to eliminate the negative associations – example, in the past, and to an extent even now, family run businesses imply lack of transparency and command and control structures and politicians who have family backing sometimes end up as mediocres who have deprived a more capable candidate.