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West Bengal's political landscape witnesses rise of dynasties this Lok Sabha Elections

Out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats, 13 have candidates from political dynasties. Traditionally known for its vibrant student politics, Bengal is experiencing a notable shift as influential political families are gaining prominence.

Edited By: Hritika Mitra @MitraHritika Kolkata Updated on: April 21, 2024 13:47 IST
Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee
Image Source : FILE Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee

Dynastic politics has been a prominent feature of Indian democracy, but its increased presence in Bengal this Lok Sabha election marks a significant departure from the state's tradition of cultivating leaders from grassroots politics. Out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats, 13 have candidates from political dynasties. This represents a significant increase compared to previous elections, where political dynasts were limited to just three seats.

Traditionally known for its vibrant student politics, Bengal is experiencing a notable shift as influential political families are gaining prominence. "This is a new trend or an evolution of Bengal politics from class-based politics to dynasty politics. Never in the polls have so many candidates come from political families," said Maidul Islam, political scientist at Centre for Studies in Social Sciences.

He said in Bengal where politics is dictated by the charisma of mass leaders, party symbols and issues, "it remains to be seen how people accept these political dynasties." The TMC has fielded five, the Congress four, and the two parties, the BJP and the CPI (M), which used to decry dynasty politics, also have two candidates each. According to TMC, BJP, and Congress leaders, several factors contribute to the rise of political dynasties in Bengal.

According to them, family members are valued for their loyalty and trustworthiness, making them reliable allies. "The success of established family names in politics is attributed to two main factors - name recognition and networking, which make it easier for them to garner electoral support," a senior TMC leader said. TMC national general secretary and two-time MP from Diamond Harbour, Abhishek Banerjee, the nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, tops the chart of political dynasty contesting the polls. He is seeking re-election from the seat.

BJP’s candidate from Kanthi Lok Sabha seat, Soumendu Adhikari, comes from the powerful Adhikari family of East Midnapore, with his father Sisir Adhikari being a three-term MP from the seat, and his brother Suvendu Adhikari is the Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal assembly. In Malda South seat, the Congress has passed on the representation mantle from an indisposed Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury, Congress patriarch ABA Ghani Khan Choudhury’s brother who won the seat without a break from the 2006 bypolls, to his son Isha Khan Choudhury, a former Congress MLA.

CPI(M)’s South Kolkata candidate Saria Shah Halim, is also from a political dynasty, as her father-in-law, Hashim Abdul Halim, was the longest-serving speaker of West Bengal assembly, and her husband, Fuad Halim, is a CPI(M) state committee member. "If a son of a doctor aspires to be a doctor, a son of an advocate aspires to be a lawyer, then what is wrong in children or relatives of politicians following similar footsteps? It becomes problematic only when eligibility criteria are compromised, leading to a concentration of power," TMC leader Santanu Sen said.

The TMC has fielded its sitting MP from Uluberia – Sajda Ahmed, wife of former TMC MP Sultan Ahmed; it has repeated its Jaynagar candidate Pratima Mandal, the daughter of former party MP Gobinda Chandra Naskar. From the Bardhaman-Durgapur seat, the party has fielded former cricketer Kirti Azad, a former BJP MP from Bihar, who is the son of former Bihar Chief Minister Bhagwat Jha Azad.

The Bengal Congress has fielded its veteran leader Nepal Mahato from Purulia, son of former MP Debendra Mahato, and also Mortaza Hossain, grandson of former minister Abdus Sattar, from Jangipur seat. "It is not just because of my family; I too have been an MLA here and served the people for the last 15 years," Congress candidate from Raiganj Ali Imran Ramz, son of veteran Forward Bloc leader Mohammed Ramzan Ali and nephew of former minister in the Left Front government Hafiz Alam Sairani, said.

BJP candidate from Bongaon seat, Shantanu Thakur, who comes from Matua-Thakurbari family, with his father Manjul Krishna Thakur being a former minister in TMC cabinet and his aunt Mamata Bala Thakur being a TMC MP. CPI(M)’s Serampore candidate Dipsita Dhar, a youth leader, is granddaughter of former three-term MLA Padma Nidhi Dhar.

The BJP and CPI(M) defended their decisions to field candidates with political lineage by saying, "Their candidature has nothing to do with their families." "Both Saria Shah Halim and Dipsita Dhar are good leaders and speakers. It has nothing to do with dynasty," CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said. West Bengal BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said the party has been vocal against dynasty politics, but in the case of Thakur and Soumendu Adhikari, both are well-known leaders.

"Both are leaders in their own right and got party tickets based on their winnability," he said. Although political dynasties have been prevalent in Bengal politics since pre-independence era, post-independence, especially since the late Fifties, student politics was considered the breeding ground for next-generation politicians. CM Mamata Banerjee, former CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, Left Front chairman Biman Bose, and Congress leaders Somen Mitra and Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi are products of student politics.

Political scientist Biswanath Chakraborty said the trend of dynasty politics will gain momentum due to a lack of leaders emerging from campuses. "Earlier, colleges and universities were breeding grounds for the next-generation politicians. But except for Presidency College and Jadavpur University, none of the universities and colleges had a student body election in last five years. So there is hardly any new batch of leaders, forcing the political parties to rely on dynasties," he said.

(With inputs from PTI)

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