ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Of Sons and Foster Sons

Of Sons and Foster Sons

This is the age of sons and foster sons, daughters and foster daughters occupying high positions in party and government. They are helped into position by armies of sycophants.


Of Sons and Foster Sons the Congress culture used to call him a foster son of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
There have been some enthusiasts who
GPD read the business of the politics of Congress

This is the age of sons and foster sons, daughters and foster daughters occupying high positions in party and government. They are helped into position by armies of sycophants.

GPD ( is a well known commentator on literary and political affairs.

t would seem that the sons never had it so good in India’s politics as they have it today. The daughters did reasonably well, from Indira Gandhi to Supriya Sule, (Sharad Pawar’s daughter, in case you are wondering who this person is) to an Italian’s daughter, our own Soniaji. No, we have no problem with her foreign origins. As one was counting influential or potentially influential daughters, a reference to paternity was inevitable.

Relatively, there have been hardly any sons who have made good except for Rajiv Gandhi. One could add Ajit Pawar’s name to the list, if counting of nephews was in order. There have been some more sons but they do not belong to the “Family”. As such they have not made it so good. You can see all of them belong to the Congress. So one should perhaps talk of “Congress sons and foster sons”. When the crown of prime ministership was offered to Sonia Gandhi, she offered it in turn to Manmohan Singh making him her foster son. Just as well, because some people not very respectful of sons a shade inadequately. They therefore thought that they should plead for a ministerial berth for the son of the family. Soniaji in a playful sort of gesture announced that she wanted the son to be made a minister; she apparently lamented the son’s reluctance to join the cabinet. Many regretted it. But then little did they realise that the sons take only the top post.

Heidegger has somewhere made the distinction between “correct” and “true”. All the Uttar Pradesh enthusiasts were “correct” in their loyalty but it must have seemed to be less than “true”. You cannot ask for a mere ministerial berth for the son. That kind of silly and misplaced demand did more damage than good to the Congress culture or so it would seem. So the indulgent mother seemed to accept the suggestion and said all right. But the understanding son saved the day. He must have given a benign and understanding smile as he declined the love and pressure of the half-baked loyalists and let the foster son go ahead with the reshuffle of the ministry,

april 19, 2008

Economic & Political Weekly


accommodating a couple of sons of the minor dukes and barons.

The situation is indeed fascinating. The medieval court historians who specialised in writing the “Namas” of various emperors and sultans would have enjoyed the situation. It is also conceivable that a Shakespearian comedy could be written on the subject. It could well be “Measure for Measure (for our times)”.

There was one fellow among the Congressmen who saw that modern day kshatriya family, perhaps the only one if you go by the Gita’s prescription that the varna is determined by the quality and performance. He could not have said much on the “son’s” performance but he could and did talk about his qualities. Arjun Singh, the union human resource development (HRD) minister appointed himself the Kshatrajagadguru (the guru of all Kshatriyas, thakurs that is) and declared that the son had all the qualities of his father. Why not him when the United Progressive Alliance comes back to power? He posed a question that he knew no body among the Congressmen and any of Sonia’s real or potential foster sons could answer in the negative.

Karunanidhi of the once radical Dravidian movement came out in support of the son. And why wouldn’t he? He has himself not so long ago blessed the succession moves of his son. He knows how difficult it is to have a deserving son and not to project him as the leader. To be fair the Tamil son is far more experienced than his UP counterpart. But then that is perhaps a question of detail.

Where does that leave the foster son? If numerous reports are to be believed, the HRD minister was himself hoping to be adopted as the foster son four years ago. That did not happen. It seems that the Jagadguru from Madhya Pradesh never really got used to the loneliness. In the Congress culture the one who does not enjoy the kindness of the prince or the queen feels very lonely. For the HRD minister it has been a long wait. He first tried the reservation policy trick. Predictably it created some stir as far the institutes of management and the like were concerned.

In reality the move was quite astute except that it was not initiated as a move towards social transformation. It concerned a class that can actually pay fees of the order of lakhs. It never made any sense not to widen the circle of this class. Why not let the OBC young people join the circle? A sensible and in any case an unavoidable situation. It was not like Mandal Commission recommendations that covered a much wider sections of population. The IIMs and IITs cover a very small section of the students. One would have expected that the HRD minister’s move would pass off without much unease. But that was not to be. To the utter delight of the minister, the foster sons were upset. Now that the Supreme Court has endorsed his decision he has decided to make the next move. He has proclaimed the son as the successor.

The queen mother gave away the crown to someone else. The minister could and did not like the decision. He had no choice but to move in such a way that the other aspirant foster sons cannot make it to the crown.

The other parties have no clue how to react to this situation. The BJP thinks that all Congress moves are intended to stop Advani’s chariot in its certain run to the prime ministership. The Left has always been a little kind and indulgent towards the abject feudalism of the Congress culture. But then probably everyone in urban India is. The number of discussions that we have heard regarding the prime minister of the next UPA government gave us the impression that all the commentators wanted all politicians to accept Sonia Gandhi (now one must add her son) or Advani as the next prime minister. It is all a question of which son or a duke who should rule.

There is a remarkable convergence between the political culture of the Congress and the other political parties. Mayawati has now decided that she would be the Sonia Gandhi of the dalits. If the lady of the Congress wants everything to be named after the late king the lady of the dalits desires that all statues should belong to her. You may have one for Ambedkar and one for Kashi Ram. But the pantheon of the social revolution in India would not be complete without her. She has laid down who the makers of the revolution that has not taken place are. And, why not, after all? If the Con gressmen and women are certain that Indian revolution, such as it is, cannot go through without its Gandhi pantheon, how can anyone find fault with Mayawati who probably thinks of herself as the foster daughter of Ambedkar?

It is a fascinating world, the world of sons and foster sons, daughters and foster daughters, is it not?

CD-ROM 2005

The digital version of Economic and Political Weekly is now available for 2005 on a single disk.

This electronic edition contains the complete content of all the issues published in 2005. The CD-ROM 2005 comes equipped with a powerful search as well as utilities to make your browsing experience productive. The contents are indexed and organised as in the print edition, with articles laid out in individual sections in each issue. Users can browse through the sections or use the sophisticated search facility to locate articles and statistics of interest.

Price for CD-ROM 2005 (in India) Individuals – Rs 220 (Rs 200 plus postage and handling charges of Rs 20) Institutions – Rs 420 (Rs 400 plus postage and handling charges of Rs 20)

International – US$ 40 (including airmail postage)

Also available 2003 and 2004 on two separate CDs, individual CD price as above

Any queries please email:

To order the CD-ROMs (please specify the year) send a bank draft payable at Mumbai in favour of Economic and Political Weekly.The CDs can also be purchased on-line using a credit card through a secure payment gateway at

Circulation Manager,

Economic and Political Weekly

320-321, A to Z Industrial Estate, Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai 400 013, India

Economic & Political Weekly

april 19, 2008

Dear reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Back to Top