‘Law’ of Political Inheritance

08 Apr, 2014    ·   4380

Shujaat Bukhari writes about the dynamics of dynastic politics in Jammu and Kashmir

Shujaat Bukhari
Shujaat Bukhari
Editor in Chief, Rising Kashmir

Winston Churchill once said: “Politics is not a game, it is earnest business.” That has come true in the South Asian context. By making it a full-time dynastic profession, the political families have turned it into a business, which the sons and daughters are now inheriting. While the elections in India are ostensibly being fought on the plank that dynasties have full right over power, the political leaders from different parties are at the same time handing over the baton to their wards.

Same thing is happening in Jammu and Kashmir’s mainstream camp. This is interestingly not becoming true with the separatist camp, as there seems to be more discomfort in the shape of police stations and jails becoming second home for them. Moreover, there are lesser chances to make money and increase the assets from one election to another. Until 1996, the mainstream camp in the state, particularly Kashmir valley, was in tatters. Most of the workers of traditional political parties such as National Conference had publicly disassociated themselves from the party fold and publishing “Izhaar-e-La Ta’aluqi” in the local newspapers. Those associated with the mainstream parties virtually ran for the lives and those who could migrate did that by shifting their base to Jammu. NC was the worst hit as the militants killed hundreds of its workers. Similarly, Congress workers too became the target.

For a long time it looked like that India had lost its battle in Kashmir and even those who had ruled Kashmir in the name of India for many years were not ready to own it. A few political leaders had still managed to stay back. They, however, remained busy brokering the deals with various agencies in getting the youth released from various jails. When the infamous Ikhwan came onto the scene in mid 1990s, its job was to create a space for mainstream politics. With the help of Army and other organs of the state the Ikhwanis let loose a reign of terror and crushed the anti-India movement. Ikhwan paved way for return of traditional political parties like NC and Congress. Even as NC boycotted the 1996 Lok Sabha elections, Congress and Janta Dal jumped in the fray winning three states. It was followed by participation of NC in 1996 Assembly elections held in September along with all other parties.

With the mainstream parties getting a foothold and a level of legitimacy among the people, senior political leaders started carving out a way for their sons and daughters, no longer considering it a voluntary public service (which it was till some decades back) but a profession like business. Unfortunately, the dynasty rule got a stronger foothold. With Omar Abdullah becoming the third generation leader of his family, Mehbooba Mufti, along with a bunch of close relatives too stepped into the shoes of her father. She first fought elections on a Congress ticket in 1996, became CLP leader and then founded the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) along with her father. She played a significant role in realizing the dream of his father to become the chief minister. Similarly, Omar continued with the legacy of getting the top slot of Chief Minister which his grandfather and father had held. Sakina Ittoo was another entrant as her father had been gunned down by militants.

With the passage of time, the joining of sons and daughters in the parties of their fathers or replacing them as MLAs has become a permanent feature of the mainstream politics. On Sunday a young dentist Hina Bhat announced her arrival in politics after quitting the government job. Hina is daughter of former MP and MLA Mohammad Shafi Bhat, who dared to file nomination paper for 1989 Lok Sabha elections, which recorded the lowest turnout in the history of elections in Jammu and Kashmir. A staunch NC worker, Bhat parted ways with party and joined Congress as he was ignored by not giving a ministerial berth.

“I want to carry forward the legacy of my father,” Hina told the reporters. At the same time Saddam Nabi Azad, son of Ghulam Nabi Azad also made his appearance during the campaigning with his father in Udhampur constituency. It is not clear whether he is formally joining the politics soon but his presence in the public meeting cannot be ignored. Earlier, the PCC chief Saifuddin Soz also recalled his son Salman Soz from a job in Washington and inducted him in Congress.

When NC announced the office bearers for the provincial body a few months back, the list looked like as if the party had handed over the job to the sons of its leaders under an “SRO”. Most of the new faces, educated outside Kashmir as they were young when militancy broke out and had to move outside, made it to the list.

Sons of veterans like Mehboob Baig, Mohammad Sayeed Akhoon, Abdur Rashid Shaheen, Syed Abdur Rashid, Mubarak Gul, G Q Pardesi and others are full-time office bearers of the party. Salman Sagar is fairly old in the party now, so is Tanvir Sadiq who was first elected as Councilor on PDP ticket before switching over to NC. His father Sadiq Ali was MLA from Zadibal. Some of the wards have already made it to Assembly and Council.

One may not grudge about the entry of these wards but one thing is clear that the changing colour of politics in India, and also in the state, is the major attraction for the educated youth to join it in spite of the common refrain that “politics is a dirty game”. Today’s politics is no longer confined to “public service”.

Those who have been in politics earlier used to struggle hard on many fronts. For example, an MLA was getting a small amount as salary and was not entitled to a car or a bungalow. Today the complexion of an elected representative has completely changed. Even if not a minister, he/she gets a handsome salary, perks, government transport and official bungalow and much more besides enjoying the power. In addition to legitimate perks, the politicians, though not all, tend to do other businesses as well.

On the face of it inheriting politics as a profession may not be a wrong thing to do but the challenge of the new entrants would be whether they are in a position to make any difference. In the context of Kashmir, they feel safe in politics as it is hardly challenged the way it is in other states.

By arrangement with Rising Kashmir