At a time when the entire nation is debating on nepotism and struggling to be on the right side, on September 24, 2017, Shri Akhilesh Yadav announced that his wife, Smt. Dimple Yadav, second-time Lok Sabha MP from Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh, will not be contesting the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He clearly stated that he wished to tackle "parivarwaad" or dynastic politics in the Samajwadi Party and challenged the BJP to address the issue within its own ranks.
This is not the first time that Akhilesh Yadav has made a well-intentioned yet politically risky announcement. A leader known for his corruption free track record and development-based "kaam bolta hai" campaign, Akhilesh Yadav has yet again rejected the tried and tested formula of family politics.
His decision to keep Dimple Yadav, a star campaigner, out of the crucial 2019 elections will disappoint a critical mass of the electorate, male as well as female.
It is understandable that Akhilesh Yadav wanted to absolve himself of the infamous "parivarwaad" that has tarnished his party's image for too long. However, his decision to keep Dimple Yadav, a star campaigner, out of the crucial 2019 elections will disappoint a critical mass of the electorate, male as well as female. While Dimple Yadav may have entered the political arena as Netaji's bahu, her evolution from a fumbling parliamentarian to a composed, self-assured campaigner in the 2017 UP Vidhan Sabha elections is for all to see. She addressed more than 15 rallies and campaigned extensively for Akhilesh Yadav at a time when some of his own people had publicly abandoned him. Her speeches addressed sensitive issues such as sanitary napkins and breast cancer, and her political remarks on BJP leaders ruffled many feathers. While the party workers came up with the slogan, "Vikas ki chabhi, Dimple bhabhi", journalists touted the couple as the future "PM-CM" power duo.
Dimple Yadav's face served the party in two ways. First, it warmed women towards the party which had thus far earned a dubious reputation with them. Second, her urban image and progressive background synergised with that of Akhilesh Yadav. She represented the modern Indian woman who was trying to strike a balance between family and work. She was a symbol of gender equality, when she shared the last road show with Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi in Varanasi. She helped the quintessentially rustic party to expand its reach to the urban masses.
In the 16th Lok Sabha, the Samajwadi Party has five Lok Sabha MPs, all of whom have familial connections with the first family. The promotion of family members in the SP has met with criticism not only from the opposition, but also from the ground-level party cadres who feel left behind as family invariably takes precedence over meritocracy. It is interesting to note that in 1967, Mulayam Singh Yadav was given a ticket to contest elections from Jastwantnagar, UP, by the socialist stalwart, Ram Manohar Lohia, the uncompromising critic of the Nehru Gandhi dynasty.
Name of the MP
% Votes in 2014
Indian politics continues to "revolve significantly around inheritance, dynasty and nepotism. Dynastic politics may not be popular, but dynastic politicians are." At least one in five members of Parliament elected in 2014 came from a political family. Moreover, in the current Lok Sabha, even the BJP, which has among the lowest shares of dynasts (16.7%), is driven by nepotism in the younger age-group; 50% of BJP's MPs under the age of 40 have a family connection in politics and 25 out of 61 women in the 16th Lok Sabha elections are related to politicians (data from here and here).
Irrespective of whether this move will acquit Samajwadi Party of parivarwaad, or not, it is clear that Akhilesh Yadav has once again, exogenously taken control of the narrative.
Notwithstanding the current debate on whether nepotism in politics is justified or an unnecessary bane, it is unfortunate that the Samajwadi Party seems to have lost for 2019 a promising MP candidate who enjoyed popularity across economic and social strata. Still, at a time when certain leaders are justifying nepotism, Akhilesh Yadav has once again emerged as a leader who is not afraid to take the road less travelled. He is desperate to bring positive reforms in the party, which will motivate the cadres and send out a telling message to his critics. Irrespective of whether this move will acquit Samajwadi Party of parivarwaad, or not, it is clear that Akhilesh Yadav has once again, exogenously taken control of the narrative.
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