Dynastic vs non-dynastic politics

Since 2014 general elections, those who want to stop BJP juggernaut have been calling Rahul by names and branding him as inept, unwilling and unfit for politics and so on, as he has been unable to turn the tables in his party’s favour. However, the same people are not ready to understand why Rahul Gandhi could not turn the tables in his party’s favour.

First a disclaimer. Neither BJP nor any political party is not invincible in a democracy. So, whenever the electorate gets frustrated with BJP’s rule in state or Centre, they will defeat BJP.   So, the purpose of this article is not to claim that BJP would continue to win all elections but to explore how the inherent difference in the organisation structure between BJP and other parties has been helping BJP to expand in the last three decades.

To understand why Rahul Gandhi could not turn the tables in his party’s favour, we need to understand the nature of our political parties. India’s political parties may be broadly categorised into dynastic and non-dynastic parties. Dynastic parties are essentially parties headed by individuals till their demise and if possible, by passing the baton to scions and family members while the individuals are alive or dead. Dynastic parties may claim that they have ideology. However, the most critical ideology of such parties is the continuation of dynasty and hence top leadership always lies within a family. BJP and left parties are non-dynastic parties and almost all other parties are dynastic parties. In business parlance, dynastic parties are akin to family businesses and non-dynastic parties are like professional organisations.

If one look at closely, since 1989, BJP has been growing at the cost of decline of dynastic parties, especially Congress and now it is expanding at the cost of state level dynastic parties. BJP also witnessed stagnation between 1991 and 1996 (20.29 per cent votes in 1996 against 20.11 per cent votes in 1991) and 2004 and 2013 (when it was out of power at the centre), thereby unable to provide a new narrative to the electorate and remained stable or witnessed some decline. But, it had grown phenomenally between 1986 and 1991, 1996 and 1998/ 1999 and then from 2013 onwards. The moot question is what made BJP to grow in last three decades? The reason lies in the DNA (the fundamental and distinctive characteristics of one over others) of BJP. The organisation structure and growth potential of a political party depends on its DNA. The key difference between BJP and other family business parties is that organisation structure of BJP allows intrapreneurship at various levels.

An intrapreneur in an organisation is someone who comes out with a new idea of product or service and looks for space in the organisation to execute his idea. In an organisation, where intrapreneurship is encouraged, intrapreneurs are given enough freedom to develop their ideas within the larger vision and mission of the organisation. There is no restriction on the number of intrapreneurs as long as there is no conflict of interests between them and the organisation. Intrapreneurs are major contributors to the organisation, understand trends, see what the organisation needs to do before others. Organisations sho-uld also be aware of its potential intrapreneurs and the organisation should pr-omote them for innovative and growing organisations.

In political party parlance, an intrapreneur is a leader who can generate a new narrative or implementation model within the larger ideology of the party and thereby take the party to the next level. When BJP was in doldrums after the drubbing in 1984 general elections, Advani took charge as chief intrapreneur of BJP in exposing the pseudo secular politics of Congress and pushed BJP to a double-digit vote share in 1989 general elections. When every other party opposed construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya in the abandoned Babri Masjid site, Advani mantled role of chief intrapreneur again and pushed BJP as prospective alternative to Congress in 90s. But, when the broader coalition was needed to win the elections and get simple majority, Advani declared Vajpayee as the chief intrapreneur (PM candidate) in 1998 and 1999 elections, another intrapreneurial venture. Modi emerged as a chief intrapreneur from the state of Gujarat moving ahead of well-established central leaders such as Advani, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj. When it was clear to the party in 2013 that Modi’s intrapreneurial narrative of development that he perfected in Gujarat will make the party to the coveted position at the national level, BJP decided to appoint Modi as the chief intrapreneur of BJP and thereby provided him an opportunity to make BJP as the first non-Congress party to win simple majority in Lok Sabha elections. Modi as a chief intrapreneur pushed BJP to secure more than 30 per cent votes on its own. Time only will tell who will emerge as the next chief intrapreneur in BJP.

The organisational structure of BJP allowed many intrapreneurs to emerge in the party in the recent past, whether it is Amit Shah, Ram Madhav, Yogi Adityanath, Himanta Biswa Sarma or Sarbananda Sonowal, Sunil Deodhar or Biplap Kumar Deb, to name a few and others are in the making. Given such vast pool of intrapreneurs, BJP could choose the top-quality intrapreneurial narrative and chief intrapreneur to present before electorate in future. In family business parties, intrapreneurs have no role to play and the best leaders that are presented before the electorate are restricted to the families who run the parties and whatever narrative that the families bring is the Hobson’s choice for the party. For Congress, DMK, SP, BSP, TDP, TRS, SAD, NCP, RJD, AAP, BJD, JD(U), JD(S), INLD and RLD, the leadership and narrative presented to the electorate is restricted to Stalin, Akilesh, Mayawati, Chandrababu Naidu, Chandrashekhar Rao, Sukhbir Singh Badal, Sharad Pawar, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Kejiriwal, Naveen Patnaik, Deve Gowda, Nitish Kumar, Cha-utala and Ajit Singh or their family members and their imaginations respectively. As these parties are akin to family businesses, there is no scope for others to offer their intrapreneurial skills and became chief intrapreneur in these parties.

In Congress, despite being a national party, the characteristics of allowing intrapreneurs to emerge was killed during Indira Gandhi’s time and continued thereafter. Sharad Pawar, Mamata, Jagan Mohan, and Chandrashekhar Rao and Moopanar understood that they cannot push their intrapreneurial idea within Congress and hence left Congress to start their own entrepreneurial ventures in their territories. Now it is impossible for Congress to metamorphose its DNA to accommodate intrapreneurs who can bring better narrative and implementation plans that are appealing to electorate. The narrative of Congress will be only as much as the imagination of Rahul Gandhi and given this, it is cruel on the part of media to lambast Rahul Gandhi or for that matter Congress left, right and centre for its inability to bring new narrative.

 (The author is a consultant and researcher and may be reached at ramakrishnan@iima.ac.in)