YB WEB DESK. Dated: 8/1/2020 10:28:15 AM


Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s alleged suicide has once again sparked off a countrywide debate on nepotism, favouritism and dynasticism. Since time immemorial, nepotism and its offshoot, political dynasticism, have posed grave threats to the rise of an egalitarian society. The act of prioritising birth over worth and family connections over merit has wiped out several talented individuals, thriving empires, civilisations, dynasties and nations off the face of the Earth. In the second century AD, the Roman emperor and stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, committed the aforementioned mistake, which gradually brought the mighty Roman Empire to its knees. Blinded by paternal love, he went against the tradition of appointing a capable and efficient man as his successor and chose instead his incompetent son Commodus as the next emperor. Prior to this, no Roman emperor had chosen his son as the heir. The rest, as they say is history and ironically Rome itself became history. Unfortunately, the story of our civilisation is no different. Everyone is familiar with the epic tale of the moral blindness of King Dhritarashtra that caused the great Mahabharata. In The Great Indian Novel (1989), which is an allegorical retelling of Vyas’ epic, Shashi Tharoor satirises India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru as the Dhritarashtra of modern India. His daughter and late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, on the other hand, is recast as Priya Duryodhani, a fictional representation of the eldest son of King Dhritarashtra, the antagonist Duryodhana. While writing this magnificent political satire, Shashi Tharoor would never have thought in his wildest dreams that one day he would join the Congress Party. But then, writers do enjoy poetic licence. The heart of the matter, nevertheless, is that the names of Dhritarashtra, Aurelius and Nehru will continue to be taken in the same breath. In fact, one of Nehru’s Ministers seems to have quipped that the late Prime Minister was like a banyan tree in whose shade nothing else could grow. However, it is well-known that another banyan tree can grow and thrive under an older banyan tree. Disenchanted with the nepotism and dynasticism of the Gandhi family, the celebrated socialist poet Nagarjun had foregrounded this decadent aspect of post-Independent India. The Hindi poet exploded in rage against Indira and wrote: “Induji, Induji, kya hua aapko? Bete ko taar diya, bor diya baap ko”, which can be roughly translated as “Indu, what happened to you? You gave your sons, name and fame and brought a bad name to your father.” If the father-daughter duo were accused of promoting their scions at the expense of others, in the post- Nehruvian era, the situation exacerbated at the level of regional politics as well. Many of Ram Manohar Lohia’s acolytes in States such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh started a rat race to send family members to the Parliament and State assemblies, often at the expense of capable party workers.


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