Stunted by either a dynastic ceiling or the visage of towering personalities at the top, do second-rung leaders, outside the realm of dynasty, really stand a chance in Indian politics?
Bihar presents a contrasting scape, where the Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal has already put its succession plan in motion in form of his son, Tejaswi, while Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) supremo Nitish Kumar appears to have none, as he crosses over into the 70s.
Like the two parties in Bihar, Tamil Nadu’s Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) are also similarly positioned. While the DMK had a host of second-rung dynasts ready to take over charge of the party affairs after the demise of M. Karunanidhi, the AIADMK is witnessing a bitter legacy feud between its two former Chief Ministers, years after the death of its supremo J. Jayalalithaa.
Jammu and Kashmir’s politics has also been dominated by two political dynasties, the Abdullahs and Sayeeds for decades. But their politics orchestrated through their two parties namely the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party respectively now faces a challenge from younger political parties like the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference.
In Maharashtra too, the Pawar and Thackeray dynasties have tended to loom over the politics of the state. With the Bharatiya Janata Party coming into its own over the last couple of decades and the rebellion in the Shiv Sena triggered by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, both dynasties appear to have been side-lined for now. But there is no mistaking the fact that the Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party are grooming their next-generation dynasts for political challenges ahead.
India’s north eastern states also have their own sets of dynasties articulating the politics of the region. The Sangmas, Khandus, Gogois clans have transitioned from patriarchs to their off-springs. A politically young Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had to part ways with the Congress and join the BJP, to break the second rung jinx in his own party, to come into his own.
The shunning of second-rung leadership is not a phenomenon which plagues the states alone. The affairs of the Congress party have been exclusively dominated by the Gandhi dynasty at the apex, while the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led “new” BJP has managed to groom dynasty of its own, who are subservient to the very top.
Left parties however, appear to have steered clear of the dynasty trap and their organisational structure appears to have accommodated the rise of younger leadership up the ranks.