Political Theory of ‘Relativity’

Lalu Parivar..... - Sakshi Post

Mahesh Vijapurkar

Coomi Kapoor wrote in the Indian Express over the past weekend that one S Inderjit Singh Sidhu of Punjab has an unusual letter head which ‘’leaves no one in doubt where Sidhu’s clout stems from. It proclaims him the “Real Brother-in-Law of Prakash Singh Badal (Chief Minister, Punjab). Earlier AajTak had brought this out on its website with a caveat: Anyone can easily forge one, and that an AAP leader had first tweeted about it.

I have not independently verified this but If it is credible, it makes a simple but telling point. Relationships matter in the Indian system. We all know about the typical response of an Indian when caught breaking a traffic rule is, “Don’t you know who I am?” One needn’t be much by himself, but knowing another, that another being a person with heft, swings clout. It smoothens the way for many a thing.

Cronyism is all about that – getting benefits because of a relationship. Here there’s a nice touch to the relationship by claiming it to be ‘real’ as if there could be a ‘fake’ brother-in-law. One is or one is not a brother-in-law but let us attribute it to an Indianism in English. Unless, of course, someone else was falsely claiming such a relationship. But if a chief minister’s brother-in-law has to underscore a relationship, it means not himself but a relative was important.

Imagine Jashodaben Modi having to print and use a visiting card announcing she was the wife of the incumbent prime minister. She had been living in isolation, away from the marriage, and if she did that now, it would be laughable. Everyone now knows she is what she is, and unless she felt unsure, would not have to announce it in a brazen manner. Only on Modi becoming the prime minister did their marriage was bandied about in public.

Being somebody’s relative can both be a benefit as well as a burden. The benefits can accrue in a variety of ways, even unasked for. Least of, it could be entry into important offices, both public and private. It could, depending on the relationship, mean easy succession into political office. Indian politics is sprinkled with such cases. Take the Samajwadi Party led by Mulayamsingh Yadav where a man with heft, Amar Singh becomes an ‘’outsider”. A brother, son, daughter-in-law, nephew are all elected pubic officials.

The burden comes when people assume that because of a relationship, even if sort of distant, one can get things done. The Indian system functions on the basis of who is known to whom as much as who is willing to pay a bribe to whom. More importantly, if that ‘knowing’ means being related but in favour of the man in some position of power, all the better. Being related by marriage except being a spouse, but from the wife’s side is less important. Being a wife is. Ask Rabri Devi of Bihar.

But being a brother to her fetched some solace to her brother, Anirudh Prasad, known more as Sadhu Yadav, who had to leave their party and contest the elections against her in 2014. The other brother, Subhash Yadav too had to shift to another party. Being a brother-in-law is not always enough, and the gentleman from Punjab had to proclaim his relationship. Imagine a Lalu Prasad Yadav off-spring having to ever do that. When Lalu was in jail, his daughter naturally was seen as the one who would campaign for the party.

Using connections to get things done is normal in our system which despite a clear arrangement of rights and responsibilities, has been so distorted that it is by now believed that the legal route never is the proper option. That route is always the most tedious, for the other person seeking to best you could be related to the one in authority, never mind at what level. As long as the one in any good position does not treat you as an encumbrance.

Back to Top