New Delhi: The old order changeth, yielding place to the new… Alfred Tennyson’s immortal words are playing out again in the dusty heartlands of Uttar Pradesh where three sons are preparing to carry on their political legacies. For Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav and Jayant Chaudhary, out to prove they are worthy inheritors, this could well be a make-or-break election.
Rahul Gandhi is son of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and the late Rajiv Gandhi, a fifth generation leader of the Nehru-Gandhi family; Akhilesh Yadav is son of Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav; while Jayant Chaudhary is son of union minister and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Ajit Singh.
There’s plenty in common. All three are leading their party’s campaign, all are MPs from Uttar Pradesh and are cutting their teeth in this election for power in India’s most populous state currently ruled by Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Congress has tied up with the RLD to take on the BSP, SP and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the gruelling polls, spanning 403 assembly seats and being held over seven p hases between Feb 8 and March 3.
Is this a continuation of dynastic politics, a sign of India’s unchanging feudal times or a sign of a resurgent youth willing to give up all to herald change? The opinions are sharp and divided.
Chaudhary, 33, who is mainly campaigning in western Uttar Pradesh where his party is contesting most of its 47 seats, said his role in the campaign should not be seen as sign of generational transition.
“I don’t think it is reflection of generational transition. He (Ajit Singh) is president… Yes, I have a fair deal of responsibility,” Chaudhary, who unlike Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav is contesting the assembly election from Mathura, told IANS.
Chaudhary, whose grandfather Charan Singh was a former prime minister, has been raising issues of land acquisition, corruption and injustice to farmers. He said the fact that young leaders from political dynasities were playing a role in the election reflected “the sentiment on the ground as well”.
Rahul Gandhi, 41, has a lot riding on the outcome of the election in a state where the Congress has been out of power for almost 22 years and now has only 22 seats in the assembly. He has set a hectic pace for himself, addressing over 100 rallies, and visiting villages, interacting with farmers and Dalit in their homes.
For Akhilesh Yadav, 38, the electoral challenge is equally daunting with the SP seen as the natural gainer of an anti-incumbency sentiment. Relatively low profile, he has been steadfast in his campaign at the grassroots level. Though decisions in the SP are still taken by his father, he is credited with reshaping the party’s thinking by going beyond caste mobilisation.
The BJP was scathing and said it was not relying on dynasty to deliver votes. “Their campaign is dynastic, ours is dynamic,” Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.
SP MP Mohan Singh did not agree. “Where is the harm if they are are sons of leaders. They are going through the struggle (to get votes),” Mohan Singh told IANS.
Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed said it was natural for parties to give prominence to young leaders as majority of country’s population comprised people below the age of 35.
Political analysts added that dynastic politics was not specific to a few states and young leaders leading the poll effort was a healthy trend.
According to Nisar-ul-Haq of Jamia Millia University, the youth coming to the forefront of politics would result in greater thrust on performance. “It is a very good trend. Power should come in the hands of the youth… If the youth do not perform who else will,” he said.
“Young leaders are talking of development. They are talking less of traditional issues… There is definite change in political discourse (in these elections),” said IGNOU’s A.S. Narang.
Now to March 6, when the votes will be counted and the effectiveness of the trio will be known to all.