Dynastic Politics in the India Subcontinent

Dynastic Politics, world, india

The countries comprising the Indian subcontinent share culture, traditions, customs, religions but most important of all a long history of dynastic politics.

The Nehru dynasty has ruled India for the majority of its history. It started with Jawahar Lal Nehru who became the first prime minister of independent India, in 1947. His father Moti Lal was the president of pre-independence Congress. He was the one who placed his son under the stewardship of the great Mahatma Gandhi. Nehru learned the basics of politics from Mahatma Gandhi and it was on his insistence that Nehru accepted to become the first prime minister of  Bharat ( the official name of independent India).

After Nehru, in a very closed and conservative Indian society Indra, his daughter was not only accepted as a leader by the masses but also became the first and to date the only female prime minister of India. She was killed by her Sikh bodyguard, as a revenge for ordering desecrating the sacred Golden Temple, at the height of the secessionist movement for a separate homeland. Indra Gandhi was followed in politics by her son Rajiv. He also served as the prime minister of India. He was killed by a female suicide bomber belonging to the Tamil Tigers (LTTE). As per the tradition of dynastic politics in 2014, it is Rahul Gandhi’s turn to serve as the latest prime minister of India.

Across the border, the Bhutto family is the indisputable political dynasty in Pakistan.  Mir Shah Nawaz was a member of the legislature under the British Raj. After him, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, his son, became prime minister of Pakistan in 1973. Z.A. Bhutto was hanged by the court under the pressure of the military dictator Zia-ul-Haq; a dark chapter in the history of Pakistan as to date this infamous hanging is referred to as judicial murder. Carrying on the family tradition Benazir Bhutto was twice elected as prime minister of Pakistan. She was killed during a public rally before the 2008 general elections. Now Bhutto’s son Bilawal is destined to be the next prime minister of Pakistan. Majority of political commentators hold that Nawaz Sharif, the present prime minister , too, is in the process of establishing a political dynasty in Pakistan

The remaining two countries– Bangladesh and Sri Lanka– of the Indian subcontinent also have the tradition of dynastic politics. In Sri Lanka the Bindranayke political dynasty has ruled the country for most of its history. In fact Bindranayke was the first woman to lead a country in South East Asia. Her daughter following the dynastic tradition also ruled Sri Lanka first as the prime minister and later as the president.

Bangladesh, which initially was east Pakistan, became an independent country after the war of independence against Pakistan in 1971. Shiekh Mujib-ur-Rehman, the father of the new-born nation, was the first prime minister of Bangladesh. He was toppled by the army chief,  Zia-ur-Rehman. Both Mujib and Rehman started political dynasties in Bangladesh. The politics in Bangladesh revolves around the daughters of both these dynastic heads.  The daughter of Mujib is Shiekh Hasina, the present prime minister of Bangladesh. When she is out of power it is the daughter of Rehman, Khalida Zia who is the prime minister.

The Koirala dynasty in Nepal and the military in Myanmar (Burma) has taken the shape of a political dynasty in this region. This, in short, is a cursory history of dynastic politics in the Indian subcontinent.

By Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada


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