A Family Affair
The recent changes made by Dr Farooq Abdullah, President of the National Conference, in the party hierarchy have almost gone unnoticed. While no one in the party, having a monolithic structure and considered to be the dynastic fiefdom of Abdullahs, can dare to raise his or her voice against the party chief, even the other political parties have maintained a meaningful silence in view of their own undemocratic or dynastic character. The management of political parties controlled by the powerful elites is in no way different from the management of the family affairs. In the latest move Farooq Abdullah has made his chief minister son as the party’s working President while naming his younger brother Dr Mustafa Kamal (who was unceremoniously removed from the post of party general secretary and chief spokesperson only a couple of months ago for criticizing the Congress and the Centre) as the Additional general secretary and party spokesperson. Farooq’s ailing cousin Sheikh Rashid continues to be the general secretary, the post he held for years together without interruption. Thus the levers of the ruling party will fully remain under the possession of Abdullahs.
There is no dearth of senior and more competent and experienced leaders in the NC who could have been entrusted with the responsibilities of managing the party affairs. Farooq’s decision betrays both his lack of trust in his senior colleagues from outside the family and his sense of insecurity. He has not only tried to maintain a balance with the family but has also followed the NC practice of combining the posts of the chief minister and the party chief.
Sheikh Abdullah occupied both the posts of the head of the government and the party chief from 1947 till he was deposed and arrested in August 1953. After that it was Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed who became both the Prime Minister and NC chief till he bowed out of office in 1963 under the Kamraj plan. Again after the Sheilkjh returned to power (through backdoor without facing elections and with Congress support) in 1975 on the basis of status-quo on New Delhi’s terms under the Indira-Sheikh Accord he not only remained the chief minister but also the President of the revived NC till his death. After that the mantle of holding the posts of the chief minister and NC chief fell on Farooq Abdullah in true dynastic manner. Following the same traditions.
Omar succeeded his father as the CM as well as the party chief. NC, it must be said, is not the only political party which is practicing dynasticism in the polity and governance. Most of the parties in the country are sailing in the same boat. In fact it was Indira Gandhi who not only introduced dynastic rule in the country but also destroyed the democratic character of the Congress. Powerful ruling personalities with their lust for power and retaining it for their progenies have destroyed the democratic institutions and fortified political misgovernance in the country. This has turned democracy into empty ritual with the people continually feeling excluded from the political process through which the decisions and policies affecting their living are made. There can be no democracy if the internal set up of the political parties entering the election fray lacks inner democracy and accountability. Those who manage to control the levers of power not only destroy democratic institutions to concentrate power in their hands but also become intolerant of criticism, insensitive to dissent and turn out to be demagogues.
One may recall Dr B.R.Ambedkar’s historic words of caution in the Constituent Assembly. “In India, bhakti or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship”.