NehruThe current elections in India seem to produce new episode in the recent history of this democratic nation. The world’s largest democratic election- the 16 since independence is underway in India, with 800 million eligible voters and will continue the coming three weeks-is demonstrating an exception. The two main rival political parties that are heavily contesting this election are:  Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the ruling congress party.

The two main prime ministerial candidates are Rahul Gandhi, the vice chair of the ruling congress and Narendra Modi, the former Chief Minister of Gujrat and the current leader of BJP. Rahul Gandhi, who is 43 years old, studied international relations and development studies at the universities of Rollins and Cambridge. Rahul Gandhi comes from the politically influential Nehru-Gandhi family. His father was late Rajiv Gandhi, who held the prime ministerial post in late 1980s. His mother is the controversial Sonia Gandhi, who is currently holding the presiding position of Congress. Interestingly, his grandmother was Indira Gandhi, who was the third prime minister of India between 1966-1977 and 1980 until her assassination in 1984. Indira Gandhi was the only child of India’s first prime minister.  John Elliot, the author of the book “India’s Tryst with Reality”, explains the confusion surrounding the lineage of Gandhi family in the following words:

Indira Gandhi, born a Nehru, married Feroze Gandhy who changed the spelling of his main name, thus giving the family an association with the stronger Mahatma brand, which still causes helpful confusion today. No one knows how many of the poor, who have instinctively voted for the Congress Party in past general elections, believe the Gandhis are descendants of the nation’s founding father, but there must be many. (Foreigners who do not know India well also assume there are direct family links.”

At this point it is important to point out that the Gandhiji connection has worked for Nehru-Gandhi family politically for the last sixty years, and they got three prime ministers in India during the last 60 years. It is also worth remembering that dynasty rule have taken firm foot in sub-continent especially in India, Pakistan and Bangaladhes, where you find the triangle of family rule “Buto, Gandhi and Hasina/Zia family rule”.  Somalilanders experienced this kind of dynasty rule during their union with Somalia, both during the civilian era as well as the dictatorship time. This has been clearly elucidated by the Abgaal comedian, who was disappointed by persistent power succession between Majeerteen Leaders in a poem that later became household-discussion among the Somali people:

Marna waa Rasheed

Marna waa Rizaaq

Inta kale ma rootiyaa?

Once it was Rashid and

Once again it was Rizaq,

Is the rest just toast?

Coming back to the topic, Narendra Modi who is 63 years, self-made man and an experienced administrator who has held for more than 12 years as the chief minister of the state of Gujarat, he has been praised for his economic reforms in Gujarat for the last 10 years. But many argue that Narendra Modi does not represent for all India, and accuses him his deadly role in Gujrat riots in 2003, which more than 1000 people were killed. Most recently, prominent Indian artists and academics have written an open letter warning against the possible election of Hindu nationalist politician Narendra Modi as a prime minister of India and warned that this would be ill-move and disaster in the future of India.

Nevertheless, the most important issue that has huge impact on this election is the economy- the shrinking GDP growth rates. Ever since 1991, when India undertook sequences of reforms in the face of a balance- of payments crisis, there have been number of economic reform policies but the pace of change has been very slow especially during last seven years. Inflation remains very high and many characterize Congresses reform policies as old-fashioned budget-busting handouts.

Many observers contend that India will recapture its economic footing once Narendra Modi is elected as prime minister-they also emphasize that Narendra Modi is considered as pro-business politician and would most likely enhance economic reforms that are greatly needed. While other observers argue that BJP’s economic vision is not yet clear and it is all about generalities, and needs to be clarified. They also argue if BJP wins the election, they should also forward another personality rather than Modi because of his role in Gujrat crisis in 2003.

Finally, what is certain, however, is that dynasty rule of Nehru-Gandhi era is becoming to an end and new era is beginning for India.

Mohamed Abdilahi Duale