All political parties of any significance in Punjab are marred by nepotism. There is no point in giving specific examples because the facts are too evident. I will not talk about the sad state of affairs. I would rather talk about a possible move away from nepotism. But before I get into that, I would like to point out that nepotism is not only a problem in Punjab or India.
It is a global phenomenon. It is the biggest hurdle that is stopping democracies all over the world from realize their full potential. Even in mature democracies like America it’s not hard to find examples of Bushs and Clintons walking into active politics one after the other. Human civilization has seen kings and queens for larger part of its existence. Democracy is a big leap forward from that tradition. But it has become evident that the next big leap in world politics will come from making nepotism impossible! Nepotism is the single biggest hurdle between Democracy and people’s rule. But curbing nepotism may sound as impossible an idea as the idea of democracy would have sounded a few centuries back. But achieving it could be simpler than it looks. So hang on!
The only argument that party leaders, world over and in Punjab, give for favoring their sons and daughters ahead of others is that they are not hand picked but democratically elected by their parties. Their claims are endorsed by how they started as a common worker in the party and rose through the ranks with their dedication and hard work. Parties all over the world do it, media all over the world criticizes it, people know everything all along; but no one can do anything about it. Everyone knows that in reality the party members have to succumb to the wishes of their leaders to make sure they too could reserve lucrative positions for their sons and daughters. If not checked, the leaders will keep on promoting their own families over and over again in the disguise of democracy. It’s ironic that democracy is being used as tool against its own values! One starts to believe that it can only be through some sort of a non-democratic measure that one can curb nepotism. Well, if that indeed is that case, so what?
So what can be done about nepotism? I argue that if a new political party promises to stop nepotism (by including a clause in its constitution), it will be welcomed by all sections of the society. What if a party rules that it will give MP/MLA tickets to only one person from a family in two generations? What if an MLA’s son/daughter/brother/wife etc. are all barred from getting MLA ticket from the party? Some would argue that this is a step back from establishing democracy as it discriminates against families of political leaders. I agree that it puts a politician’s family at a disadvantage. But which democracy wouldn’t pay this small price to strengthen its government and making sure that public participation in politics becomes more dynamic? After all what are the odds that two great leaders of a nation come from the same family? Was George W Bush the best leader that America could find to lead itself for 8 years? I doubt it!
Some would simply shrug this idea as too idealistic. Who would stay with such a political party that endorses such a policy? Are party leaders out of their mind that they would enact such a party law that makes sure that their families stay away from money and power? Which party in the world would want this? Let me explain why this can still work.
First of all I am not suggesting that any established political party will take such a step. If, for argument’s sake, a party leader wants to implement such a radical change, even his/her loyalists will walk out on him/her. They can not be stupid enough to ruin future of their children! So let’s be very clear that I am proposing that only new political parties can implement this idea. And they keep mushrooming up all the time, at least in India. A new party does not have the obligation of keeping majority of key leaders happy. In fact it has the luxury of making basic rules and inviting people to participate. Moreover a new political party is never founded and supported by people to ensure future of their children in politics. What are the odds that a new political party will become part of the government in one generation? If someone does not like the idea, they can simply choose to stay away from the party. Their place can easily be taken by someone else equally if not more competent in a state with population of more than 2 crores and not many opportunities to participate in politics. Think of thousands of people who would connect with the party because it’s not a family run business.
You may call it wishful thinking, but I know that one day when I have my own political party, I will shout it over the roof-top that my party stands against nepotism at all levels. I am sure that will bring hope to millions of Punjabis who feel cheated by pseudo-democratic and feudal political parties like Congress and Akali Dal. Everyone will have the right to join the party, raise themselves to highest of its ranks and then respectfully leave the opportunity for next generation of rest of the state. Only if the sons and daughters of its leaders are barred from all party ranks.
These days napotism and favourism has also entered Counts and appointment of judges as revealed by recent reports about Alahabad and Punjab and Haryana high courts.