India’s democratic dynasties


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FOR a democratic country, India’s politics is remarkably dynastic. At least 29% of the current Indian Parliament consists of those whose family members – fathers, mothers, siblings, husbands, wives, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins or in-laws – preceded them in politics.1 At least another 5% had family members either enter politics simultaneously, or follow them.2 We can only guess at how these figures compare with parliaments in other democracies, or with previous Indian parliaments, or with elected bodies at lower levels of government in India. But 34% of parliamentarians with family ties is a rather large number for any democracy, at any time and at any level of government.

These dynasties are drawn from an extremely broad social base. They come from across regions and social categories. The northern states have a somewhat larger proportion of members with family ties (42%), the western and southern states are close to the average (32%) and the eastern and north eastern states are somewhat below average (24% and 28% respectively). But all regions produce a significant proportion of parliamentarians with dynastic ties. Similarly, all social categories are associated with significant proportions of such parliamentarians, some to a greater degree than others: 66% of Muslim parliamentarians, 25% of parliamentarians from Scheduled Caste (SC) seats, 28% of parliamentarians from Scheduled Tribe (ST) seats and 34% of the rest, have family ties.

The large proportion of MPs with family ties, and their broad social base, indicates the extent to which dynastic politics in India has become a systemic phenomenon. When we speak of dynastic politics in India now, we must refer not only to the prominent families that head India’s political parties – the Nehru-Gandhis, the Badals and the Pawars, the Karunanidhis and the Thackerays – but also to the less prominent and more numerous families that occupy parliament on behalf of these parties – the Botsas, Reddys, Gogois, Mirdhas, Adhikaris, Bhadanas, Gadhvis, Dikshits, Deoras, Naiks, Sayeeds, Wasniks and so on. While we do not have data on the scale of dynastic politics at lower levels of elected government – the state assemblies and the panchayats – newspaper reports suggest that family ties represent a systemic phenomenon at those levels as well.3


Dynastic politics are usually thought of as the antithesis of democratic politics. But, we argue here, there is a causal link between the two in the Indian case. The systemic importance of dynastic ties in India is a product of democratic politics. Two features of Indian democracy in particular encourage the emergence of dynastic politics – the large returns associated with state office, and the organizational weakness of political parties. The returns associated with state office ensure that the families of politicians will want to enter politics. The organizational weakness of political parties ensures that they are likely to get tickets when they do. Both features of Indian democracy are likely to persist or increase in the near future. Dynastic politics, therefore, is likely to increase in the near future as well.

What does the large, and likely expanding, role of dynasties mean for Indian democracy? To address this question we need first to distinguish between democratic procedures and democratic ideals. Democratic procedures include competitive elections, a free press, a multiparty system, freedom of speech, and freedom of association and participation, among other things. Democratic ideals include political equality, accountability and rule of law, the provision of basic entitlements, the protection of individual rights and liberties, and so on.

We would like to believe that democratic procedures and democratic ideals go together, but they often do not. In India, democratic procedures are deeply consolidated. We have regular elections conducted under the gaze of an independent media. These elections are competitive: hundreds of parties take part, and incumbents frequently lose. Citizens have a deep faith in the competitive system.4 But democratic ideals are frequently subverted. Citizens often obtain basic goods as patronage rather than as entitlements. High levels of corruption subvert the principles of rule of law and accountability. Electoral politics in India is marked by chronic cycles of violence, in which the state often fails to protect individual rights as basic as the right to life and human security. Indeed, the consolidation of democratic procedures is sometimes produced by the subversion of democratic ideals in India: corruption, patronage and violence all contribute to India’s high levels of electoral participation and competitiveness.5


Dynastic politics is another of those subversions of democratic ideals that reinforces democratic procedures. The conventional expectation is that dynastic politics blocks the entry of new candidates and makes elections less competitive. But oddly enough, it does not. India’s political dynasties reinforce the openness and competitiveness of India’s electoral system, while transforming both features at the same time. The real damage to democracy from dynastic politics comes from the violation of democratic ideals. A ruling class based on birth is a prima facie violation of these ideals. Yet, that violation has become a routinized aspect of India’s democracy. We cannot, then, simply characterize dynastic politics as the antithesis of democracy. Instead, we should focus attention on the form in which it allows democratic procedures to survive, and the damage done to democratic ideals in the process.


India had no dearth of dynasties – princely families and zamindars – when democratic politics was first introduced. In other democracies, elections have sometimes functioned as a mechanism to legitimize the power of such pre-democratic ruling classes. Pakistan, in which traditional landowning families have played a large role in electoral politics, is perhaps the most obvious example in a South Asian context. But India’s dynasties are newly minted. They represent not the capture of power by an old ruling class, but the creation of a new one through the electoral process. Only 3% of India’s present MPs represent political dynasties founded by pre-democratic aristocratic families. The rest belong to dynasties founded by self-made men of humble origin who acquired political office through the electoral process and once there, sponsored the entry of other family members.6 We use the term ‘democratic dynasties’ or ‘democratic aristocracy’ to describe this new ruling class.


A typical member of this newly minted class is Mulayam Singh Yadav. Yadav is a first generation politician from an ordinary peasant background who came of political age in post-independence India, when he participated in agitational politics in the 1950s and ’60s. He won his first elected office as an MLA in 1967. Now, forty years later, he is head of his own political party, has been both chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and a Union cabinet minister, and is the patriarch of a dynasty that includes his son Akhilesh, his nephew Dharmendra, and at least four other family members.

The roots of these democratic dynasties lie in electoral competition. Unlike traditional aristocrats who are guaranteed their position by birth, these aristocrats must fight elections to obtain and maintain their offices. And, in a fact we often overlook, these elections are competitive. Birth does not guarantee victory. The risk of losing is real. Consider the example of Ajeya Singh, the son of former Prime Minister V.P. Singh. In the 2009 elections, Ajeya Singh fought elections from his father’s old constituency of Fatehpur. But with 1% of the vote, he did not make it even to the list of serious contenders.

Ajeya Singh was not the only candidate with family ties to lose in these elections. Vibhakar Shastri, the grandson of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, also in the running for the Fatehpur seat, lost too. Other prominent families to lose in the 2009 elections included the Paswan brothers: Ram Vilas Paswan and Ram Chandra Paswan lost from Hajipur and Samastipur respectively. Several other candidates with family ties lost as well. Heena Shahabuddin, the wife of former RJD MP, Mohammad Shahabuddin, lost from Siwan. Ranjeeta Ranjan, the wife of four-time MP, Pappu Yadav, and the sitting MP herself lost in Supaul. Pappu Yadav’s mother lost from the parliamentary constituency of Purnea. The LJP candidate Veena Devi, wife of disqualified MP Surajbhan Singh, was defeated in Nawada. Lovely Anand, the Congress candidate from Sheohar who is married to former JD-U MP Anand Mohan, also lost.


This relationship with electoral competition distinguishes India’s new aristocrats in one critical respect. An aristocracy is normally seen as a closed class, consisting of a handful of families who pass down class membership across generations. But India’s democratic aristocracy has open borders. The requirement for entry is simply electoral victory. India’s competitive elections have consistently produced new winners, and as these new winners enter parliament (or elected bodies), they bring in new families with them.

Just as victory produces entry, defeat produces exit. Consider the case of Ram Vilas Paswan, the leader of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), former Union minister and several time MP. Paswan is the first generation founder of a dynasty that includes his brothers (Ram Chandra Paswan joined Ram Vilas in Parliament in 2004, while another brother, Pashupati Kumar Paras was a several time Bihar MLA) and at least four other family members. All brothers lost their seats in the 2009 parliamentary and assembly elections, and with this the dynasty appears to have exited, at least for the time being, from both the national and state level.

Indeed, as Indian democracy becomes more representative, so does its aristocracy. In the six decades of democracy in India, there has been a gradual decline in the number of the Hindu upper castes who initially dominated parliament, and an increase in the numbers of MPs from subaltern groups, especially the backward castes.7 The subalternization of parliament is reflected also in the composition of India’s political dynasties. Table I below describes the make up of India’s parliamentary dynasties by standard caste, tribe and religious categories, constructed to be mutually exclusive.


Caste Composition of Dynasties in the 2009 Lok Sabha8




Hindu Upper Caste



Hindu Intermediate Caste



Hindu Upper or Intermediate Caste



Hindu Backward Caste



Scheduled Caste



Scheduled Tribe



Non-ST Muslim



Non-ST Christian










Perhaps not surprisingly, a plurality of MPs with family ties come from the Hindu upper castes. But most MPs with family ties come outside the twice-born – and many of these MPs represent dynasties of recent vintage. As subaltern groups continue to increase in parliament, we should also expect the proliferation of new dynasties founded by members of these groups.

In the absence of data on dynastic ties over time, we can neither determine how the size of this dynastic class has changed over time nor the relative rates of entry and exit. Our guess is that there has been an expansion of the dynastic class over successive elections mainly because more family members are entering now than before. But this expansion of the dynastic class as a whole is entirely compatible with a turnover in the particular dynasties that win parliamentary (and other elected) seats.


The first step towards explaining why democratic politics in India has produced dynastic politics lies in explaining why the family members of existing politicians choose to enter politics in present-day India. Although we do not have hard data to establish this, it does seem that politics has not always been so attractive to the families of politicians in the past. Newspaper accounts of election campaigns from the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, do not throw up as many examples of family centred campaigns as do newspapers describing the last two decades. Now, virtually every politician – even the president – has kin who aspire to enter politics.9

The answer, we suggest, lies in the increasing returns associated with state power in the 1990s onwards. Post-colonial India has historically been a ‘patronage-democracy’ in which access to state office brings with it immense returns.10 One might have expected these returns to have diminished with the dismantling of the licence-permit-quota raj from the 1990s onwards. But in fact, the reach of the state has expanded in several ways: in its role in providing inputs to the private sector, in its expanded regulatory presence, and in the expansion of developmental programmes, including NREGA, MP-LADS and MLA-LADS. As a result, so have the returns to state power.


These returns certainly do include the one that politicians themselves cite as the main attraction to political office: the power to serve the people. Given the scope and power of the state in India, those who control it certainly have an immense capacity to serve, and some of those in positions of power indeed use this power for the public good. That is a return in itself, and there is also high status associated with it. But there are also other, private, returns. These include the opportunity to obtain preferential access to inputs such as land, or the speeding up of regulatory clearances, or a speedier response by the law and order machinery. They include the simple fact of political protection in an environment in which the state is not neutral: one former MP whose family repeatedly fights elections does so, he argues, in part to block encroachments on his estate that would become likely if his rivals came to power.

And finally, they include returns to corruption on both a large and a small scale. The recent corruption scandals over the telecom ministry and the commonwealth games are simply two of the many examples of large-scale returns to corruption made possible in India’s new economy.11 But the accumulation of small-scale returns – for example, in the allocation of contracts under the MP and MLA Local Area Development Schemes – is also not insignificant.

Obtaining access to elected office, therefore, is more attractive now than ever before. And it is attractive to everyone, not just to members of political families. Political contestation in India has been increasing exponentially since 1991 and reached a new high in the 2009 parliamentary elections, in which over three hundred political parties and over eight thousand candidates, many of them independents, competed.12 But for the young heirs of political families, the opportunity cost of foregoing politics is perhaps higher than for the rest. Except for the unusually well-qualified, most twenty or thirty-year olds from political families are likely to obtain greater returns – in status, power and earning capacity – from entry-level positions in elected politics than entry-level positions in business or banking or bureaucracy or other such professions.

It is these returns, perhaps, that explain a remarkable aspect of dynastic politics in India – it consists, not of a ‘passing of the baton’ from the old generation to the new, but of a diversification of portfolios, in which one generation continues to occupy leadership positions while simultaneously creating new positions for siblings, in-laws, and children. Of the 185 MPs with dynastic ties in the present-day parliament, the majority (59%) have family members who are concurrently active politically – either in elected office at the national, state or local level, as candidates for elections, or as party leaders.


The greater the number of political positions within a family, presumably, the more it can capture from the state. Furthermore, distributing family members across state offices is also insurance against risk: individual members may lose elections, but the family as a whole is unlikely to be out of power. Indeed, the more competitive the elections and the greater the risk of losing, the greater the likelihood that families will put up candidates for multiple elected offices.

This diversification occurs within all three levels of government. At the national level, we have several examples of parliamentary seats distributed across a single family. Father and son Sisir and Suvendu Adhikari from the Trinamool Congress, for instance, are concurrently Members of Parliament. Mulayam Singh Yadav, his son Akhilesh and nephew Dharmendra are too. Sharad Pawar’s daughter, Supriya Sule, and his brother in law, Padamsinh Patil, are concurrently MPs. We see a similar distribution of seats across family members in assembly and local elections, but since this essay focuses on the national Parliament, we do not address those here.


Diversification also occurs across levels of government. For members of the fifteenth Parliament, the most pronounced form of such diversification currently is between the national and state level. The list of families concurrently holding positions at the state and national level includes the Abdullahs, Badals, Pawars, Botsas, Karunanidhis, Yadavs and Dikshits, to name only a few. The distribution of positions across national and local levels within the same family also occurs, but less frequently. It is more common to see MLAs with family ties in local level politics than MPs. But one MP who does have family members active at the local level is Rajesh Sachan, MP from Fatehpur, whose wife and mother simultaneously contested elections for separate gram panchayat seats. Another is Praveen Singh Aron, the MP from Bareilly, who is married to Bareilly’s mayor Supriya Aron. As and when greater resources are made available to the panchayats, we should begin to see families active at the national level also expand further into local level politics.


Finally, families have also begun to diversify portfolios across political parties. In the past, when family members represented different political parties – as in the case of the Scindias, with Madhav Rao Scindia representing the Congress party and his mother, Vijaye Raje Scindia, representing the Jana Sangh – this typically caused or was caused by a rift within the family. In the present, however, such cross-party representation indicates the coordinated pursuit of a common family interest.

In the 2010 assembly elections in Bihar, for instance, several JD(U) politicians who could not get their family members JD(U) tickets got them RJD tickets instead. The JD(U) MP from Aurangabad, for instance, ‘actively lobbied for the Aurangabad assembly seat but Chief Minister Nitish Kumar did not oblige. The infuriated MP opened channels of communications with the RJD camp and his efforts paid off. His elder brother became the RJD nominee from Aurangabad, creating huge embarrassment for the JD(U) leadership.’13 In the same elections, fathers and sons contested from the LJP and BJP, and the RJD and BJP. Similar examples of family ties sprawling across political parties can be found in several other states.

It is all very well for the families of politicians to want to be in politics. But so does everyone else. At election time, party offices are mobbed with thousands of ticket seekers. Faced with this immense pool of contenders, why do political parties award tickets to family members? Getting party tickets does not mean, of course, that family-based candidates are going to win. But it does make it more likely: independents win few elections in the Indian parliament. In our view, therefore, a large part of the puzzle of why dynasties exist in Indian politics is to be solved at the level of why parties give them tickets.14

The answer lies in the functional utility of family ties as substitutes for weak organizations. Organizations establish the chain of command in a party, create systems for financial management and accounting, and function as channels for recruitment of new members. But building an organization is costly and risky. Organizational structures have to be created and maintained through time, effort, and salaries. And impersonal procedures for the management of finances and recruitment always carry with them the risk of displacement of the current leader by another.


Family ties can often serve as an alternative. They do the same job as organizations: the proximity of blood ties provides a ready-made and easily visible chain of command: the son is in most cases likely to be more powerful than the nephew, and the nephew more powerful than the second cousin. Where there are exceptions to this rule, they are clearly marked. And there is more control over finances and less risk of displacement with family run parties than with formal organizations.

While families have their own feuds, sons and daughters do not displace their fathers and mothers as often as vice presidents and general secretaries replace presidents. Consequently, it is typically parties with weak organizations that are most likely to favour family members. The functional utility of family members is especially high for small parties. As the scale and ambition of a party increases, they require longer and more specialized chains of command – and family networks are not up to the job.


Most political parties in India, with the exception of the BJP and the Left, have weak organizations. Sometimes these organizations are so weak that it becomes difficult to even identify who occupies which post. The state president of one well-known regional party, for instance, when asked for a list of his party’s office-bearers, was outraged at being asked for information he considered secret: ‘Why should I give my party’s inside information to you?’15 Even when available, lists of ‘official’ office-bearers often do not reflect the true chain of command within the party. For this, one needs information about the informal relationships those office-bearers have with the party’s central leader. In this sense, then, the outraged party president was correct that he would have had to part with inside information in order to identify the distribution of power within the party’s organization.




No. of MPs with family ties

Total number of MPs

Per cent of MPs with family ties

Indian National Congress




Bharatiya Janata Party




Bahujan Samaj Party




Samajwadi Party




Janata Dal (United)




Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam




All India Trinamool Congress




Communist Party of India (Marxist)




Biju Janata Dal




Shiv Sena




Nationalist Congress Party




All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam




Telugu Desam Party




Rashtriya Lok Dal




Shiromani Akali Dal




Rashtriya Janata Dal




Communist Party of India




Jammu and Kashmir National Conference




Janata Dal (Secular)












It should come as no surprise, then, that most political parties, with the exception of the BJP and the Left, have a large proportion of MPs with dynastic ties. Table II below describes the proportion of MPs with family ties for all political parties that obtained more than one seat in the Lok Sabha. The one-seat parties are grouped together under the residual category of ‘other’. Lets us assume, in the absence of more accurate data, that for each party, the percentage of elected candidates with family ties is equal to the percentage of candidates with family ties.


Almost half the MPs with dynastic ties in the Lok Sabha come from the Congress party, still India’s largest party, but also one whose organization has progressively weakened since the split of 1969. Despite widely publicized rhetoric by both Rajiv Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, the organization of the Congress party remains weak. The party compensates by allocating tickets to family members. 41% of Congress MPs have dynastic ties. Indeed, Congress accounts for almost half of all current MPs with family ties. The party is run, not as a single centralized organization, but as a conglomeration of small local and regional organizations, each of which is small enough to be managed effectively though family ties.


The BJP and the Left (the CPI and CPM) both have a lower than average percentage of dynastic MPs: 24% for the BJP and the CPM and 0% for the CPI. But some other parties also appear to have a lower than average proportion of dynastic MPs – the Shiv Sena, Telugu Desam, AIADMK, Trinamool Congress and JD(U). In the first three cases, the low proportion of dynastic MPs may not accurately reflect the role of dynastic ties within the parties. Family ties have been important in creating the leadership of all three parties – the Shiv Sena is headed by Bal Thackeray’s son Uddhav Thackeray, the Telugu Desam by NTR’s son-in law Chandrababu Naidu, and the AIADMK is headed by Jayalalithaa, whose initial rise within the party took place under the patronage of MGR.16 News reports indicate that family ties have been relevant in all three cases in the allocation of tickets.17 If it does turn out to be the case that these parties do not favour family members in their allocation of tickets to the same extent that other parties do, we suggest that it is because their party organizations may be stronger and more specialized than other parties.


The Trinamool Congress and the JD(U) are interesting cases, headed by leaders who have themselves shown no interest in creating dynasties: Mamata Banerjee had made a political virtue of her own lack of family connections, and although the JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar’s father was involved in politics (he was a freedom fighter who fought the assembly elections on a Swatantra Party ticket), he has not brought his own siblings and children into politics.18 But Trinamool, which indeed has a weak organization, has made significant concessions to family ties as a criterion in the allocation of tickets in the just concluded West Bengal elections. And the JD(U) is facing those pressures too: in the 2010 assembly elections in Bihar, many family members denied tickets by the JD(U) defected to the RJD.19 Kumar will need a strong organization indeed to withstand the lure of family politics over time.

Is there any basis for the destruction of the dynastic principle in India in the years to come? This is unlikely. The returns to state office are not going to shrink in the near future. If anything, they are likely to increase. And weak organizations have not proved an impediment to winning control of government, especially in a fragmented party environment in which small parties can do rather well. So why should anyone want to fix something that is not perceived as broken? The occasional political party that does attempt to take a position against dynastic politics – the JD(U) – is an exception that proves the rule. Thus, rather than see any real effort to undermine the dynastic principle, we are likely to see more of it as returns to state office continue to increase, and weak party organizations persist or multiply.


The usual worry about dynastic politics is that it blocks new, deserving candidates from entry into politics, and undermines the principle of competitive elections. Both worries are unfounded. While dynasties do indicate a blockage for new entrants in individual political parties, the party system in India as a whole is likely to remain extraordinarily open to new entrants. Further, dynasties in India are likely to sustain rather than undermine the competitive system. However, they are likely to change the nature of competition in India from individual-centred to family-centred competition.

The sources of the likely openness of India’s political system in the face of dynastic politics are the very permissive rules governing the registration of political parties and the village-level elections introduced by the Panchayati Raj amendment. Consider first the effect of party registration rules. Within a single political party, dynastic politics is indeed likely to block new entrants. When the key positions in a political party are allocated through nepotism, new entrants without ties to the correct family cannot hope to rise beyond the ranks of mid-level leadership. Consequently, many are not likely to enter. But given the ease with which new parties can be formed, individuals who face blockage in existing political parties can simply create a new one. And in today’s coalition environment, such small parties are viable contenders for political power. Dynastic politics, then, should not block new entrants from politics. Instead, it should push them to enter by forming new parties rather than by joining old ones.


Consider now the effect of Panchayati Raj. In one stroke, the 73rd amendment expanded the number of elected positions in India from a few thou-sand positions, each chosen by several million voters, to several million positions, each chosen by less than a thousand. In doing so, it laid the foundations for the continuous infusion of new entrants into the ruling class at higher levels. Many of these new entrants, as we noted earlier, do have family ties. But given the comparatively fewer resources required for winning elections at this level, it is also possible for self-made contenders to propel themselves to power on their own strength, and once there to work their way through to higher levels of politics. Indeed, very few (17%) of the 46 MPs in Parliament who began their careers in local politics have dynastic ties – most (83%) appear to have risen to national level politics under their own steam. While the local institutions in question also include pre-73rd amendment institutions, this does suggest that local level elections, where they exist, can function as non-dynastic channels of recruitment.


We should be under no illusion, however, that these new entrants will preserve a space for individual-based competition. As long as new parties have weak organizations, they are likely to be run along the same dynastic principles as the old ones. And when new contestants for panchayati elections propel themselves into office, chances are that they too will try to bring their families in, as others have done before them. But the accelerated entry of families into politics should not undermine the competitiveness of the system. Instead, it should increase the number of contests which take place between families rather than between individuals.

Indeed, family-based competition and openness to new entrants are locked in a mutually reinforcing cycle. As the number of contenders for the same number of fixed posts increases, competition should become even more fierce. And the fiercer the competition, the more likely it is that families which obtain a toehold in power will spread their members across a more diverse set of offices, so that they are less likely to lose all at once.

The cost of dynastic politics, in the end, is not the violation of democratic procedures but the violation of democratic ideals. Dynastic politics is undesirable, not because it undermines openness or competition but because it undermines the idea of political equality. That idea is worth defending for its own sake. But such a defence is not heard often enough. For both politicians and voters, family ties have become one of many normal paths to and justifications for power. Rahul Gandhi tells voters that family ties are simply one of four ways in which one can enter politics in India, the other three being money, proximity to power and working for the common man.20 These words have been cited often as a remarkable example of his candidness. We read them as a remarkable example of an attempt to normalize dynastic politics.


Omar Abdullah too sees the role of family ties in his own entry into politics as unproblematic, even positive: ‘Thanks to the family I belong to, I knew that at least my entry would be at a level suitable enough for me to make a contribution.’21 Here too there is not even lip service to the idea of political equality. For voters, dynastic politics is just as routine. Opposition to dynastic politics is simply not a significant issue in electoral politics, just as opposition to patronage or corruption or criminalization do not constitute significant electoral issues.22 It is this routinized acceptance of the idea of nepotism – even competitive nepotism – that represents the greatest damage done to democratic politics in India.



1. This figure and all others that refer to family ties are drawn from an original dataset of the family backgrounds of current Indian MPs compiled using the Who’s Who of the 15th Lok Sabha ( and web-based press sources on the family members of each MP listed there. It was constructed by Kanchan Chandra and Wamiq Umaira, with additional assistance from Sashika Gunawardana, Arthur Won Hai Chan, Chaitanya Sonar, Aeshna Badruzzaman, Anjali Rangaswami, Adriana Castro Gonzalez and Anum Maqsud. These data suggest a larger aggregate count of MPs with dynastic ties in Parliament than the dataset compiled by Patrick French and his associates ( We also collected systematic information on additional variables such as the ethnic break-up of dynasties, royal versus ‘democratic’ dynasties, the precise positions held by family members, the proportion of ‘concurrent’ dynasties and so on.

2. These numbers are underestimates. They represent all those parliamentarians for whom we could find some concrete data of family involvement in politics. We did not count instances where we could not identify the precise relationship or where there appeared to be a match of names but we could not verify a relationship. The actual number, given more complete information, may be higher.

3. See for instance ‘Andhra Polls: A Family Affair’, Indian Express, 10 April 2009; ‘Ghar Ghar ki Kahani’, Mid-Day, 29 October 2010; and Ashok K. Mishra, ‘Its Family First, Party Later in Bihar’, Economic Times, 7 October 2010.

4. SDSA Team, State of Democracy in South Asia. Oxford University Press, New Delhi, SDSA Team and CSDS, 2008.

5. On patronage and electoral participation, see Kanchan Chandra, Why Ethnic Parties Succeed: Patronage and Ethnic Headcounts in India. Cambridge University Press, New York, 2004. The literature linking violence to electoral competition is extensive. See especially Steven Wilkinson, Votes and Violence: Electoral Competition and Ethnic Riots in India. Cambridge University Press, New York, 2005.

6. We use the word ‘men’ deliberately because women have for the most part consolidated and expanded, but not created political dynasties in India.

7. Christophe Jaffrelot, ‘Introduction’ in Christophe Jaffrelot and Sanjay Kumar (eds.), Rise of the Plebians. Routledge, London, 2009.

8. This table refers to all 185 MPs with family ties in Parliament, and not just the 160 MPs whose family ties preceded them. The ethnic breakdown for those 160 MPs is the same.

9. Rajendra Shekhawat, the president’s son, is Congress MLA from Amravati in Maharashtra.

10. Kanchan Chandra, Why Ethnic Parties Succeed. Op cit. Although arguing from different premises, many studies of democracy in India point to the large role of the state. See for instance Lloyd Rudolph and Susanne Rudolph, In Pursuit of Lakshmi. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1987; Pradeep Chhibber, Democracy Without Associations. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 2001.

11. The Economist, ‘A Rotten State’, 10 March 2011.

12. From 2009 Lok Sabha election results posted at

13. Ashok K Mishra, ‘Its Family First, Party Later in Bihar’, The Economic Times, 7 October 2010.

14. A full answer to this puzzle of why dynasties are so pervasive would also require an analysis of the electoral performance of dynastic and non-dynastic candidates. Other things equal, do candidates with family background do better than candidates without? Collecting the data on the family ties of candidates is a major task that we have not attempted here. But perhaps others might attempt such an analysis at least for an individual state.

15. Conversation with Kanchan Chandra, January 2011.

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17. See for instance, ‘Andhra Polls: A Family Affair’, The Indian Express, 10 April 2009. ‘AIADMK Has Edge Over His Rival in Palani’, The Hindu, 4 April 2011. ‘Dynastic Politics to the Fore in TN’, Outlook, 12 April 2006, aspx?377295

18. Nalin Verma, ‘Power Family That Shuns Trappings’, The Telegraph, 14 November 2010.

19. Ashok K Mishra, op cit., 2010.

20. Suchanand Gupta, ‘Rahul Admits to Gandhi Advantage in Politics’, The Times of India, 19 January 2010, http://articles.timesofindia.

21. Namita Bhandare, ‘Omar Abdullah: A New Son Over the Valley’, Live Mint, 9 January 2009.

22. Some commentators read the AIADMK’s victory in the just concluded Tamil Nadu elections as a vote against corruption and against family politics. But given that the AIADMK is no stranger to allegations of corruption, that Jayalalithaa’s own rise in politics came about through the connection to MGR, and that the AIADMK also awards tickets to family members, it would be better read as a vote against a particular family or a particular instance of corruption rather than either dynastic politics or corruption in general.