They say that blood is thicker than water, and that this truth is illustrated nowhere better than in the world of politics. They say that the bond shared between a common party worker and his leader is negligible, irrelevant, and always supplanted by familial ties. But a closer look with reveal that ties of family, dynasty, or lineage -- call it what you will -- these are more ties that bind and gag, especially in the murky world of Maharashtrian politics.
Barring a very few, not many politicians in Maharashtra have quite managed to master the art of handing over the reins of power to their next generation. All's fair in politics, as cousins, uncles, siblings are seen roughing and elbowing each other out in their race to the top.
Trouble is brewing in the Munde clan. If reports are to be believed, Dhananjay Munde, who acquired a seat in the Parli Municipal Council, has found a staunch critic in uncle Gopinath, who was heard thundering and threatening that he would not spare even family members who tried to 'get in his way.' Evidently, Munde Senior hasn't been able to stomach the insult of being ousted by his own nephew in his hometown.
Discord broke out a few months ago, when Dhananjay's brother-in-law Madhusudan Kendre left BJP to join NCP, and then matters went downhill. Munde Senior's comment sent shockwaves rippling through not only the family's home district in Beed, but the family as well. Elder brother Panditanna asked whether Munde Senior would follow in the footsteps of the Mahajans.
The problems in the Munde family escalated after the Beed MP decided to field his daughter Pankaja from Parli assembly seat in 2009, sidestepping Dhananjay, who had, till then, been considered as Munde's heir apparent, having held the reins at the local level on behalf of his uncle when the latter was busy with state politics.
Our myths, movies and history tell us that handing over the reins of power is always a difficult thing to do. Political families are no exception. While the Great Thackeray Fallout is known to all, lets take a look at how the other two formidable political dynasties in Maharashtra have fared.
In the Pawar quarters, things first appeared surprisingly placid -- nephew Ajit entered the fray in 1991, but differences between the two branches of the family were been few and far between. But soon, Pawar Senior's paternal love supplanted old-fashioned nepotism, and he too sneaked his daughter Supriya into the Rajya Sabha, and later fielded her into his traditional Baramati Lok Sabha seat. In a recent interview to a private news channel, Pawar was seen chiding Ajit, suggesting that he mind his language. Now he is busy promoting his daughter, launching the Rashtrawadi Yuvati Congress, which, no prizes for guessing, Supriya has been chosen to head.
In a corner of Latur, former CM Shivajirao Patil-Nilangekar failed to effect a smooth handing over of the reins of power. This ultimately made him the subject of the severe animosity of his grandson Sambhaji Patil, who once defeated him in the Assembly elections.
But it's not all feuds and warring tribes. There are success stories too. For example, Munde Senior would do well to take a few lessons from buddy Vilasrao Deshmukh. The man from Latur managed to get his younger brother Dilip elected to the State Council a few years ago. In the 2009 general elections, Deshmukh nominated Amit, his elder son as his political heir, and promoted him aggressively till he was elected to the State Assembly from home turf Latur. The transition of power from uncle Dilip to nephew Amit has been smooth and uneventful. Deshmukh shrewdly nudged second son Reitesh into Bollywood, and tucked younger son Dheeraj into the family business management. No scope of a clash there.
PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal let his nephew Samir take the mantle by promoting him for the Nashik Lok Sabha constituency. While Bhujbal Senior is an MLA from Yeola, his son Pankaj is an MLA from Nandgaon. State Excise Minister Ganesh Naik also successfully introduced his elder son Sanjeev to politics by promoting his election to the Lok Sabha from Thane, and son Sandip from Airoli. Having said that, not all is well between Naik senior and his brother Tukaram.
It seems that at the end of the day, paternal love overrides all else -- all the bigwigs ultimately prefer to hand over the coveted wigs, er, reins of power to their sons or daughters, over nephews and nieces: It was Pankaja over Dhananjay, Uddhav over Raj, and Supriya over Ajit. Are the constituencies slowly turning into personal assets, to be gift-wrapped and passed from one generation to another, and kept at all cost, within the immediate family? Now what was democracy again? Not this, surely?
The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY