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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2585

Curtains For Indian, Pakistani Dynasties?

By Allabaksh - Syndicate Features:

Looking at the current political scene in India it can be said with some confidence that the stars of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty are on the decline after enjoying positions of power right from the time of Independence in August 1947. Pakistan, which was carved out of British India, is witnessing a similar phenomenon with the third generation of the Bhutto-Zardari dynasty no more looking capable of dominating the country’s politics.

A remarkable coincidence is the growing voice for changes at the top within the Congress and the People’s Party of Pakistan (PPP). Many Congress supporters are openly canvassing for a key role for Priyanka Vadra in place of her brother, Rahul Gandhi, who is being blamed for a succession of blows that the Grand Old Party of India has suffered in recent years.

In Pakistan, Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari, daughter of Asif Ali Zardari, is being readied to take over from her brother, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, as the chair of the PPP. It is not clear if these changes, if they do come about, will be beneficial for the parties in India and Pakistan. Unlike the 126-year old Congress, the PPP is not very old, founded by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto soon after East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) seceded from Pakistan.

It is interesting that in the two prominent dynasties the younger generation is said to be at odds with the elderly generation. Despite denials, media reports in India have been talking about differences between Rahul Gandhi, vice president of the Congress, and his mother, Sonia Gandhi, the party president, over important party issues. They include disagreements over the manner of revamping the party and replacement of the old guard with the young in order to change the way of running the party affairs and make it look young and fresh.

In Pakistan, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, 26, president of PPP, is said to be ‘sulking’ at his home in the UK. He left Pakistan in 2014 and has not returned since. The cause of his unhappiness is stated to be the refusal of his father, Asif Ali Zardari, co-chairman of the PPP, to rid the party of his cronies who occupy key positions.
Rahul Gandhi went on ‘leave’ a month ago, leaving everyone guessing about both the duration of his ‘leave’ and the reasons behind it. Initially, his ‘leave’ was supposed to last not more than two weeks, but he did not surface even after another two weeks. Rahul Gandhi’s absence during the first leg of the budget session of parliament was believed to be quite mystifying and bad political strategy for a party desperately in need of revival.

The Bhutto scion stayed on in his home in the UK when his party had organized a rally on the occasion of the 36th death anniversary of his maternal grandfather, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the Sindh (Pakistan) village of the Bhutto family. He did send a message on the occasion which should hold an important place in the life of the young PPP chief. It was on this day in 2013 that his father, Asif Ali Zardari, had publicly launched his political career. The Oxford-educated Bilawal was appointed the chairman of the PPP in 2007 when he was still a student.

Among the first signs that the young Bhutto scion was learning the tricks of Pakistan brand of politics was his diatribe against India, declaring with great gusto and applause of his audience a year ago that he would wrest the whole of Jammu and Kashmir from India. He was, of course, echoing the oft-repeated lines of his mother Benazir and grandfather, Z.A. Bhutto. His bombast invited a lot of ridicule and taunt from Indians. But that was to be expected.

It is not known what the Pakistanis think of Bilawal as a public speaker, given his inadequate command over Urdu, the national language of the land of the pure. But most Indians would have no hesitation in saying that his Indian ‘counterpart’, Rahul Gandhi, has no qualities of an orator even though he is fluent in Hindi.

The churnings in the two major parties in India and Pakistan do reflect their poor political health and their declining fortunes. Bad days for the PPP started soon after the party was swept to power in the election held at the end of the decade-long dictatorship of Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf. Zardari had appointed himself as the President but also performed all the executive functions of the prime minister reducing the man picked up for the job to no more than a side kick.

Zardari had come to office after earning a dubious reputation for wheeling and dealing as the escort of Benazir Bhutto when she served as the prime minister on two separate occasions. Unfortunately for Zardari, that reputation remained stuck and his party’s following shrunk further on account of the poor performance of his government. It caused no surprise when the PPP lost the polls and Nawaz Sharif came to power with an impressive mandate.

The political course of the Congress was not entirely different. After proving pollsters wrong by edging past the BJP in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress surprised everyone even more by returning to power with a greater number of seats in the 2009 polls. Within a matter of a year, the Congress started to slide downhill following a string of corruption changes.

It was almost inevitable that the Congress lost the 2014 polls with its worst ever performance, bagging a mere 44 seats in the 545-member Lok Sabha. From that time on wards, the Congress has been in search of the formula that will not only stop further drop in its following but also infuse some fresh life into it. For a while there were loud demands that Rahul Gandhi be given complete command of the party, elevating him from the post of vice president to that of the president.

Not everyone in the Congress appears to be sure that Rahul Gandhi can bring the Congress back to power. Many are of the opinion that if the choice of leadership has to be confined to the ‘family’, the best person to lead the party will be Priyanka Gandhi. So far she has resisted the calls for her ascendency. There is no certainty that she will be able to lift the Congress fortunes.

In fact, many commentators have already written off the Congress, irrespective of who leads it. In Pakistan, the PPP is said to be facing a stiff competition from the former cricketer-playboy-turned-politician Imran Khan and his PTI to be the most viable alternative to Nawaz Sharif’s PML (N). If that is true, Pakistan’s most famous political dynasty will appear to be moving on a course parallel to the older and more established Indian dynasty.

- Asian Tribune -

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