Dynasty politics is not new to politics in India and certainly not to the regional or sub-regional parties. On Thursday, Nikhil Kumaraswamy, son of Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumarasway was appointed as the President of the Karnataka Yuva Janata Dal. Parallelly in Tamil Nadu, DMK Chief MK Stalin’s son Udayanidhi Stalin was appointed as the party’s Youth Wing President.
Both Deve Gowda and Stalin have openly made statements in the past that their family members would not enter politics. Deve Gowda, had especially maintained that apart from his sons – Kumaraswamy and Revanna, no other family member would be given the chance to climb up party ranks.
Ahead of the Karnataka Assembly elections in 2018, Deve Gowda had openly told the media that none of his extended family members, who were vying to enter the political sphere were going to be encouraged. He even declared that one of his grandsons Prajwal Revanna would not be given a ticket to contest polls.
Three years ago, Stalin too had said something similar. In an interview with Vikatan, he had said, “Neither will my son, nor will my son-in-law join politics. For that matter, I can assure that no one from my family will be joining politics.”
Deve Gowda’s volte face and his decision to field not one, but two grandsons in the Lok Sabha elections, alienated the party from the public and even its cadre to an extent. While Prajwal Revanna went on to become an MP, Nikhil Kumaraswamy lost to independent candidate Sumalatha Ambareesh.
In Karnataka, the JD(S) has been infamously dubbed as ‘Just Deve Gowda and Sons’ by political opponents. Deve Gowda’s son is the Chief Minister of Karnataka. His eldest son HD Revanna is the MLA from Holenarasipura, the family’s home town. Revanna is also the PWD Minister. Chief Minister Kumaraswamy’s wife Anitha Kumaraswamy is the JD(S) MLA from Ramanagara. HD Revanna’s wife Bhavani is a gram panchayat member, whilst her son Prajwal is the Hassan MP.
In Tamil Nadu, the Youth wing secretary post is quite an important posting in DMK and according to senior journalist TN Gopalan, the post was created in 1985 with the sole purpose to make Stalin the Secretary and gradually bring him into the party's hierarchy.
After holding the post for more than 30 years, Stalin had stepped down as Secretary of the Youth Wing, in 2017. Former Minister and three-time MLA Vellakkoil MP Saminathan replaced him until his son Udayanidhi was roped in to take up the task.
Last month however, over 40 district secretaries wrote to Arivalayam, the DMK headquarters demanding that Udaynidhi be posted as the DMK Youth Wing secretary. But according to multiple sources in the party, this was merely a ploy often used by the top leaders to create an illusion of approval for their decisions.
“The district secretaries are ordered to send letters and they cannot refuse the leadership,” says a source in the DMK. “Even those around the party President are failing to read the risks of promoting his son so quickly. But this has become the norm in the party, for the son or daughter to be given a post while those who have worked for years watch on,” he adds.
In fact in the recent Lok Sabha elections, six of DMK’s 20 contestants were the wards of senior leaders in the party. Udayanidhi was not given a seat but was largely in the limelight as he campaigned for the party without an official post.
A senior party leader opines that Udayanidhi’s promotion could have been done a little later.
“We may have swept the Lok Sabha polls. But our performance was not satisfactory in the bye-elections. This shows that we have a lot of introspection to do and positive changes to make. The party can’t afford to face charges of nepotism in this juncture,” he says. “Once we win the Assembly polls and establish ourselves, such appointments will not be received negatively by the public,” he adds.
Similarly, in Karnataka JD(S) insiders say that Nikhil’s appointment is only meant to further the family’s interest and not the party’s. “Nikhil Kumaraswamy is seen as the child who was offered everything on a platter. By appointing him as the Youth Wing President, Deve Gowda is giving him an opportunity to work with the cadre and become a face that would be well-known not only in Mandya but also the entire state. The publicity he received during the Lok Sabha polls has spiralled him into national fame. He is being groomed to step into Kumaraswamy’s shoes. By refusing to nurture any other leaders in the party, this move will hurt JD(S),” a JD(S) leader told TNM.