Rahul Has Better Chances Than Bilawal
When it comes to political mobilisation, Rahul has a better chance than Bilawal. Rahul does not face the kind of stark threat that Bilawal faces. The Indian state, with all its weaknesses, keeps a strong grip on power. In Pakistan, the state is struggling to regain the powers it had outsourced to militias.
For both widowers – Zardari and Sonia – their children are the ultimate trump card in the game of dynastic politics. But both may lose their clout if the sons take over completely.
Newer political forces in India and Pakistan have attracted a large number of followers. Both, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, play up the corruption of the old school politicians. Also, the cult of a strongman, a messiah resonates in both countries. Modi will change India’s destiny, his supporters argue. This is not too different from the conservative middle class that views a ‘clean’ and ‘God-fearing’ Imran Khan as the best choice.
The appeal of dynastic parties seems to be fading. Nawaz Sharif, the incumbent Prime Minister with a strong economic agenda, would have been Modi’s counterpart but Sharif’s politics has veered to the centre. Compared to Imran Khan, whose party rules the northwestern KP province along with an Islamist party, Sharif and his party appear to be moderate.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif before the start of their bilateral meeting in New Delhi. (Photo: Reuters)
The future trajectories of Rahul and Bilawal are unclear.
A recent poll by PEW suggests that Rahul Gandhi may have earned a few plus points over the last year. But the Congress will not be able to fire up the imagination of the electorate unless it comes up with a relevant program.
Bilawal was also praised for his strong statements on extremism but to many young people, he is seen as advancing the cause of a dynasty that was given too many chances – and each time it failed to deliver.
Benazir Bhutto (L) shakes hands with Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on November 25, 2001. (Photo: Reuters)
Despite the odds, dynastic politics is not going away soon either in India or Pakistan. Both societies, organised around the ‘family’ and its mythical values, are conservative and patrilineal. A full-scale overthrow of the dynastic model requires long term transformations –demographic, economic and social – that India and Pakistan have only recently commenced.
In the short term, both scions need to get rid of some of their uncles, re-craft their party programmes and rebuild the cadres.
Rahul may have a better chance of achieving that.