Column | BJP's ambivalence toward dynastic succession is glaring

Manohar Parrikar's son Utpal quits BJP, to contest election as independent
Utpal Parrikar. Photo: Twitter

The drama involving denial of BJP ticket to Utpal Parrikar in Goa has once again focused on the ambivalence within the BJP leadership toward dynastic succession in the states and at the national level.

The son of former chief minister and Union defence minister Manohar Parrikar, Utpal repeatedly staked claim for the Panaji assembly seat held by his father as a dynastic right as well as duty to his father's loyalists. For a party which prides itself that its prime minister, chief ministers and national president have no dynastic baggage unlike the top leadership of Congress and most regional parties, the BJP continually faces demands for special consideration of spouses and children of prominent national and state leaders.

How party handled similar cases

Wherever possible, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been rejecting the demands. When in 2019 Jayant Advani sought ticket for the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency held by his father and former deputy prime minister L K Advani, the BJP gave the seat to then party president Amit Shah. Similarly, in the same election the Karnataka BJP recommended Tejaswini, widow of Union minister Ananth Kumar, who had won six times from Bengaluru South, but the party high command did not agree. Nor was any family member of stalwarts Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj encouraged, as both ministers retired due to health reasons. (Both died a few months after the 2019 Lok Sabha election.) Only in 2014, when Union minister Gopinath Munde died within days of becoming minister, his daughter Dr Pritam Munde won the by-election, but she has remained a back-bencher.

A major concession

But at state level there are different compulsions and it has not been possible to adopt the principle of one post for a family. The major exception at the central level have been the mother-son duo of Maneka Gandhi and Varun Gandhi, as both were Lok Sabha members before Modi took charge of the party (by mid-2013). While former Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje's son Dushyant Singh is in the Lok Sabha, Modi had denied ticket to sitting MP Abhishek Singh, son of then Chattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's son Pankaj Singh, an MLA in Uttar Pradesh, has been renominated, but despite his pedigree he had not been picked up to be a minister by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

Utpal's discomfiture

In Goa, even as Utpal was denied ticket, he had the mortification to see that Atanasio Monserrate, who had once brought down Manohar Parrikar's Government, being renominated from Panaji, while Atanasio's wife Jennifer is contesting again from Taldeo. Vishwajit Rane, the health minister who had defected from Congress got renominated, while his wife Dr Divya Rane also got BJP nomination.

BJP's excuse

But BJP leaders argued that some dynastic aspirants left the party when it became clear their children would not be given tickets. The party cites the case of two prominent ministers: one, Swami Prasad Maurya in Uttar Pradesh who wanted ticket also for his son Utkrist; and two, Harak Singh Rawat who lobbied hard for his daughter Anukriti Gosain's candidature in Uttarakhand.

Maurya's daughter is a BJP member of Lok Sabha. While Rawat and daughter joined Congress a few days ago, Maurya and son moved to the Samajwadi Party. In Uttarakhand the party also denied ticket to sitting MLA Ritu Khanduri Bhushan, daughter of former Chief Minister Major General B C Khanduri.

But the BJP is in alliance with smaller parties like Apna Dal, Nishad Party (both in Uttar Pradesh) and Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt) of Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa (in Punjab) all of which have dynastic leadership. But the party faces the acid test of winning the upcoming state polls despite the selective rejection of family-based demand for assembly tickets.

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