Sycophancy has long been a hallmark of Indian political system.

Be it the ruling party or the opposition parties, positioning one person as their acknowledged leader much before the party says so, in a very flattering and undeserved manner, has been the practice.

The reason for the same is not difficult to find: India has always been a hierarchical society, wherein a family or person considered to be superior to the rest, has always maintained that position rather successfully, despite seismic changes in the society itself.

The party men are usually of the fawning types, who know that to get a “ticket” in the upcoming election and contest in the same, they need to fall at the feet of the superior folks.

In a rather obnoxious manner, even the most well-educated party leaders and ministers fall for this angle – they come to believe that it is in the interest of the party that the “superior” family person, irrespective of his/her qualifications or experience, should be felicitated well in advance. Such a bad practice can only be a recurring theme in the Eastern societies – there is hardly a case in the West when a particular candidate, or a particular family, or a particular hierarchy, is elevated by party men as the “demi-god” of their political ambitions and prepared for attaining the throne.

I was taken aback when one of the most erudite and very highly qualified ministers stated that the family guy is the right person for becoming the next prime minister or something to that effect. All such statements are, of course, taken note of by the family and the concerned coterie surrounding the family person – the “young turks” who want more political power.

But, we are no longer in the 20th Century. We are well on our way into the 21st Century, and India is no longer a servile nation of lower middle class and rural population, who would buy into any such story and positioning. Such classes of people have now risen with the economic growth and are not to be trifled with innocuous statements in the hope of winning their votes. The great thing which has happened in our society is the upward migration of the poorer sections of the society towards the middle class status due to the economic growth of the past decade, thereby consolidating their position as trend-setters in electoral politics.

Application of mind is critical to eliminate a family hold on the world’s largest democracy, qualifications not withstanding. There must be fair play, and family pedigree should increasingly become a non-qualification.

I am sure people will come around to making sense of the political mayhem that would result by placing an inexperienced, unqualified, non-communicative person in the exalted position of the next prime minister. While the current prime minister has not delivered great results despite his outstanding qualifications and bureaucratic experience, that does not mean the party should go for the exact opposite in terms of selecting their next leader.

All this is theoretical at this point in time, as the coalition arrangements are yet to be formed in anticipation of the 2014 National Elections. Whether it is in the ruling party or in the opposition, sycophancy needs to be avoided, because that’s what was instrumental in making us slaves to the British for 200 years.

Let us not forget history’s valuable lessons !


Vijay Srinivasan
24th Feb 2013


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