The results of the village panchayat polls and the subsequent elections to the posts of sarpanchas and deputy sarpanchas indicate how dynastic politics is taking a firm grip in the State. There are currently three couples in the State Legislative Assembly and in the past besides couples, there have been siblings and father-son duos too. A look at the panchayat polls shows that family members are being groomed for future political positions as politicians and former politicians seek to retain their hold at the grassroots.
Here are just some of the more notable family connections that made it to positions in the panchayats: Savita Tawadkar who was elected unopposed as Sarpanch of Poinguinim is the wife of Speaker Ramesh Tawadkar; in Parra, the deputy sarpanch is Daniel Lobo son of Congress power couple Michael and Delilah Lobo, both MLAs; in the neighbouring villages of Nuvem and Betalbatim, wives of former MLAs Wilfred de Sa and Mickky Pacheco – Frida de Sa and Viola Pacheco – were elected as sarpanch and deputy sarpanch, respectively.
Besides these examples, there are the couples who have been elected in panchayats or spouses that have contested in wards that had been reserved for women which made it impossible for the incumbent to recontest and so the spouse was the replacement candidate.
Family raj has had more success in India than in most other democracies as in states across the country there are examples of power being passed on within families by receiving the mandate of the people. There are examples of political dynasties in other countries, but the Indian electorate has shown a far greater acceptance of family raj than most other countries. In that respect, Goa is merely aping what the rest of the country is doing, following a concept that has succeeded in other states and, at times, even at the national level.
While not all sons or daughters of chief ministers or central ministers may have followed them to that office, they have definitely followed in their parent’s footsteps and found their way into the political arena and won elections. For a recent example, take the case of Bihar, where Tejaswi Yadav was sworn in as deputy chief minister. The state has had his father Lalu Yadav and mother Rabri Devi as CMs. It may not be long before Tejaswi gets that chair himself. He’s still young and his party is the single largest in the Bihar Legislative Assembly.
There is no legal bar to family politics, but the practice does result in nepotism as there is a transfer of power from the parent to the progeny or sharing of power between siblings and married couples that concentrates power in the hands of a few.
The concentration of power within a family leads to higher political influence and amassing of wealth. Across the country, there have been various such examples, but Goa too has been following suit in recent years, though this is not entirely new to the state.
Family Raj has been part of Goan politics right from the early years after Liberation. When Shashikla Kakodkar became chief minister in 1973, she merely succeeded her father Dayanand Bandodkar in whose cabinet she had served as a minister.
For the first 17 years after the first election, Goa not only had the same party in power, but also the same family that led the government and the Union Territory. In that, Goa was not an aberration, as there have been such instances in other states too and even at the central level.
Now, however, family raj is coming to be an integral part of local politics and it is not restricted to any particular party. It is visible across the political spectrum and there is every possibility that it could become more widespread.
Family raj continues and unless the electorate gets wise, it will not end. While there are three couples in the State Legislative Assembly, the number of such people could easily have gone higher had other couples or father-daughter duos not been rejected by the electorate in the same election.
It is clear that families seeking to consolidate their political influence will make all efforts to get their relatives into the political field. There is no legal impediment to this, but it is the responsibility of the electorate to choose wisely. If families win, can anybody other than the voters be responsible for it? It is their choice that they exercise at the elections. It is their mandate that allows families to stay on in power and create dynasties. In a manner of speaking, it appears that the voters are happy to permit one family to hold sway in their constituency, town or village.
Political parties have sloganeered about one family, one ticket, but when it comes to the actual distribution of party tickets, this is forgotten or exceptions are made. Since every major party has examples of family raj it is unlikely that this will ever be tackled in a legislative manner, the onus, therefore, falls on the voters to bring about a change. It is not healthy to concentrate power in one family, it is also not democratic.
This trend has to be broken so that there is better representation in elected bodies. India as the world’s largest democracy has to show that its democracy works at all levels.