Monday, 18 May 2009

The Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty

I'm not a fan of India's Gandhi family (no relatives of Mahatma Gandhi), much less a fan of the Gandhi dynasty. I think a democracy doesn't need to look to a single family to provide continuing leadership. [Of course, I'm also against reverse-discrimination, so if members of the Gandhi family choose to stand for election and win, I don't see why they shouldn't be allowed to rule.]

Well, at any rate, since the international press is going on about Rahul Gandhi being the son, grandson and great-grandson of former Prime Ministers, I thought I'd put together a photo collection of the dynasty, and just for kicks, I've used postage stamps wherever available. We still don't know if Rahul Gandhi will be PM. Maybe his sister Priyanka will. At any rate, here's the clan:

Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister (1947-1964):

He's the only prime minister from the family whom I actually admire. The man was a true democrat. It was thanks to his idealism that India survived as a democracy during its difficult infancy. So many other "great" leaders of newly-independent European colonies went down a very different path (e.g., Nkrumah of Ghana, Soekarno of Indonesia, etc.) Lots of people today criticise Nehru for taking India down a socialistic path (more correctly, a mixed economy), but I think that was the right choice at the time. Government was the only agency with the funds and the vision to develop the country. It was also correct for India to liberalise and move to regular market capitalism after a few decades, once basic economic stability and depth had been established.

Indira Gandhi, Nehru's daughter, India's third and sixth prime minister (1966-1977, 1980-1984):
(I'm not counting Gulzarilal Nanda, who was twice stopgap PM)

I never liked her. Unlike her father, Indira Gandhi did her best to destroy India's democratic institutions. Fortunately, by then, Indian democracy was mature enough to withstand her attacks and ultimately outlast her. The postage stamp is from the former USSR. The Indo-Soviet love affair was at its height during her reign. Again, I think that wasn't a bad thing for the time. Better Brezhnev than Nixon.

Rajiv Gandhi, Indira Gandhi's son, India's seventh prime minister (1984-1989):

I didn't think much of him either. Indira Gandhi was undemocratic, but she was at least competent. Rajiv did not even have competence to recommend him. I was sorry, though, when he was assassinated by a suicide bomber of the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers. [It must be doubly satisfying this week for Rajiv's widow Sonia Gandhi. Her party won re-election, and the Tamil Tigers were finally defeated and their leaders killed.]

Rahul Gandhi, Rajiv's son, future prime minister?

Priyanka Gandhi, Rajiv's daughter, future prime minister?

I don't know much about the Gandhi children. They seem decent enough. But then, so was their father Rajiv, until he became PM. In a few short years, he had turned from "Mr. Clean" into a cynical politician like all the rest.

Now we'll see if PM Manmohan Singh turns out to be a mere seat-warmer for Rahul or Priyanka. Well, the people get the government they deserve.

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