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Despite a new government, it is still 'all in the family'

Wednesday, June 05, 2019
By Arati Jerath

A detailed examination of the background of our newly elected Lok Sabha MPs reveals how much Indian voters love dynasts. As many as 30% of the new MPs belong to political families.

Not surprisingly, the highest number of dynasts are from the Congress. Nearly half its MPs, 44% to be precise, are scions of old Congress families.

What is surprising is that the BJP is fast catching up. Around 25% of its contingent in the 17th Lok Sabha are inheritors of a family political mantle. The number stands out because the party dropped 100 of its outgoing 282 MPs, only to replace them with a large number of dynasts.

Interestingly, the proportion of dynasts in the Lok Sabha has risen by 5% in 2019 as compared to 2014. Among the states, Punjab and Bihar have elected the largest share of political inheritors.

The numbers tell us that Indian voters are comfortable with dynasts and probably even prefer them to political greenhorns. This probably explains why the BJP has embraced the trend even as it criticizes the Congress for promoting political families.

The analysis of the new Lok Sabha was done by Ashoka University’s Trivedi Centre for Political Data.

‘Common man’ Patra weighs more
Television’s favourite BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra is back from a grueling electoral battle seven kilos heavier and deeply sunburnt. Patra fought the Puri seat against BJD’s sitting MP Pinaki Mishra and lost by a little over 11,000 votes.

His campaign was interesting. Patra pitched himself as a common man. He bought two sets of dhoti-kurta which he wore through the month-long campaign. He would wash one set every day and wear it the next day. And like the common people he reached out to in the villages of his constituency, he bathed and washed his clothes in ponds dotted around the lush Odisha countryside.

To his daily uniform of dhoti-kurta, he added a gamchcha that he received at the Jagannath temple in Puri where he offered prayers at the start of his campaign. Since he couldn’t ask the temple for a second gamchcha, he had to make do with one.

He would wash it every day. Fortunately, it was so hot that it would dry almost immediately. Still, given the untreated water of the ponds he used and the copious quantities of sweat he wiped off his face, the gamchcha was stinking at the end of the campaign.

Most politicians lose weight at election time because of the amount of physical exercise they put in. Patra gained weight because he was forced to change his dietary pattern. Normally not a rice eater, he was eating rice every day during his stop overs at the houses of supporters. Rice is the staple food in Odisha.

Patra fought a spirited battle. He was leading almost from the beginning during counting. The last three rounds did him in. He kept slipping behind Mishra with every EVM. Finally Mishra overtook him to win the seat.

For Mishra, victory was particularly sweet because Modi had campaigned for Patra in Puri. To overcome the Modi wave that swept the east is indeed an achievement.

Dikshit is past her prime
Amid talk of an overhaul in the Delhi unit of the Congress, political circles are puzzled by Rahul Gandhi’s soft spot for Sheila Dikshit. The ageing former Delhi chief minister remains a popular figure in the capital whose residents are fond of recalling the facelift she gave the city during her three terms in office.

But everyone recognizes that she is past her prime now. And no-one knows that better than Dikshit herself. Apparently, she was reluctant to contest the Lok Sabha election but Rahul insisted that she accept a ticket and fight.

Till the very end, the day before nominations closed, she kept sending messages to Rahul to spare her from the rigours of an election campaign. She asked that her son or any one else be nominated in her place.

Apparently, Rahul was adamant. So adamant that he finally got his mother Sonia Gandhi to speak to Dikshit and request her to accept the Congress ticket for northeast Delhi. She lost the seat to Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari by more than 4.6 lakh votes. An ignominious end to an otherwise glorious career for which she be long remembered in Delhi.

Cong late on advg budget
Among the many inexplicable mistakes the Congress made during its losing 2019 campaign was the delay in clearing the advertising budget for the election.

The budget was finalized only at the beginning of April, about one month after the dates were announced by the Election Commission. Everyone knew that polls would be held in April-May. EC announced the dates on March 10. There was no earthly reason for the Congress to drag its feet on its ad budget.

The BJP was up and running many months before. Firstly, it had the entire government machinery at work. Every ministry used up its ad budget for the financial year 2018-19 before March.

After that, the party swung into action with videos circulated on WhatsApp and other social media platforms, jingles on radio, short films on television. In contrast, the Congress was invisible till almost the end of April as its ad committee waited for the budget to be cleared before commissioning campaign material.

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