New Delhi, Nov 13: What's in a 'sur'name? Everything it seems to Rahul Gandhi, his cousin Varun Gandhi and their likes.
William Shakespeare in his magnum opus, Romeo and Juliet, had famously said, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
In the current Indian political context, Shakespeare's words sound little ill-judged. It's the name (rather the surname) which decides the fate of those who want to join politics or make a career out of it. Why blame only politics, cricket, Bollywood, business, even the media to an extent, monopoly of 'big families' has created walls for outsiders to enter several fields.
Actually, it's the dynasts, with famous surnames, in almost all political parties (the Congress definitely is guilty of starting the culture by patronising the powerful Gandhi-Nehru family) who are ruling the roost.
As famed surnames and dynasties spread like a virus in every political party in the country, it looks like nothing matters, not even one's political acumen, organisational abilities, leadership qualities or art of reaching out to masses, to become a successful politician.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar or Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah are not an aberration but are those very few who without being a part of any political family have made it big in the world of politics because of their hard work, sincerity, and popularity among the voters.
Unfortunately, for every Modi, Kumar and Siddaramaiah there is a Piyush Goyal (the Union railway minister is the son of former minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) treasurer late Ved Prakash Goyal), Tejashwi Yadav (the former Bihar deputy chief minister is the son of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav) and Sachin Pilot (the former Union minister is the son of former Union minister Rajesh Pilot).
These are just a few examples to highlight the spread of the disease where dynasts have almost hijacked our politics.
Entering politics by signing up a form of any mainstream political party--the BJP, the Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)--is the easiest thing to do at a time when parties themselves are on a membership drive to flaunt their robustness. However, what is the biggest hurdle is that how well you could establish yourself without any godfather and godmother in the competitive political space.
Imagine, if BJP leader Varun, the son of late Sanjay Gandhi and Union minister Maneka Gandhi, was born in the house of 'Dutta uncle, Ghosh uncle or Khan uncle' in your neighbourhood. Definitely, he would have been one of us.
Even the member of Parliament (MP) from Uttar Pradesh's Sultanpur constituency understands the profound reality well and had recently admitted in public that he would not have been sent to the Lok Sabha at a young age of 29 had he had not had the luxury to put the surname Gandhi after his name.
It's the same truth which would have made Rahul, son of late former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, almost a non-entity, like millions of us.
Rahul and Varun by virtue of their birth have inherited the "great legacy" to rule over India from their great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru (India's first Prime Minister), their grandmother Indira Gandhi (India's only woman Prime Minister till date) and their parents.
There is no doubt that in the future Rahul (if he ever gets married) and Varun's children too would join politics by default. The entitlement enjoyed by Varun and Rahul hints at our love for the monarchy in a democracy.
It was certainly gusty and honest on the part of Varun when he said, "I am Feroze Varun Gandhi. If my surname was not Gandhi, would I have become an MP at the age of 29? I want to see an India where it doesn't matter if I am Varun Dutta or Varun Ghosh or Varun Khan. I want to see a nation where all are given equal rights, regardless of their names."
Varun with great bravado has put himself and his likes in the dock by questioning their ability to hold a particular post or position if not born in powerful and influential families while making a pitch for equal opportunity.
With his candid confession, Varun while supporting the idea of non-political families to be a part of the political system, once again brought back the subject of "nepotism"-- which Bollywood has been trying to fight it out internally, after popular actress Kangana Ranaut, an outsider, raked up the issue much to the chagrin of all--to the forefront.
The BJP MP, in spite of being a part of the system, spoke about the selection of political leaders based on merit, rather than their political lineage. Before Varun addressed the issue of nepotism in politics, Rahul too spoke about dynasts in politics, but minus the seriousness.
Rahul recently ignited a row when he said at the University of California in Berkeley, United States that dynasty was "just the way India runs."
"Most of the country runs like this. So, don't go after me. Akhilesh Yadav is a dynast, Mr Stalin (DMK supremo M Karunanidhi's son) is a dynast, Mr (Prem Kumar) Dhumal's son (Anurag Thakur of the BJP) is a dynast. Even Mr Abhishek Bachchan is a dynast, also Mr Ambani," he said.
Like Varun, Rahul too admitted the prevalence of dynasts in politics, but he excused himself from dealing with the issue as its prevalence is huge.
However, the BJP MP, unlike his cousin, wants to tackle the problem by expressing his interest in correcting the historical injustice that took place in a democracy which otherwise should have been a level playing field for all aspiring political leaders.