- Old Saying – If you want to enter politics, it helps if you come from the right family
- This is proven right by Gandhi Family in India and Rajapaksa family in Sri Lanka.
In the Context of India
- In 1919, Motilal Nehru became the president of India’s oldest party, the Indian National Congress.
- This line goes from Motilal Nehru to his son Jawaharlal Nehru (independent India’s first Prime Minister), and then to the latter’s daughter, Indira Gandhi (who had married a man named Feroze Gandhi, and since then the dynasty has been called the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty).
- Indira Gandhi was inducted into the cabinet and became the first woman prime minister of India.
- She served one of the most controversial terms as the prime minister.
- Her regime was marred by electoral corruption and after the high court found her guilty of charges, Gandhi declared a state of emergency in 1975. In 1977, she lost the Lok Sabha elections to Janta Party, now Bhartiya Janata Party.
- Indira Gandhi was serving her fourth term as the prime minister when she was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in 1980.
- She bought her two sons, Sanjay Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi in politics too maintaining the continuance of the “Elected Dynastical Party Rule”.
- After Sanjay Gandhi died in a plane crash in 1980 and Rajiv Gandhi was murdered by a Tamil terrorist in 1991, the party eventually convinced Sonia Gandhi (born Sonia Maino), to take the charge.
- Sonia brought into Indian politics her two children: Rahul and Priyanka, making them the fifth generation of the Nehru-Gandhi family line within the party leadership.
- Rajapaksa Clan’s Corrupt reign in Sri- Lanka
- The Rajapaksas are a rural land-owning family from the southern district of Hambantota. The family owned paddy fields and coconut plantations
- One of its members, Don David Rajapaksa, held the feudal post in Ihala Valikada Korale. The family entered the political scene when Don David Rajapaksa’s son Don Mathew Rajapaksa was elected in 1936 to represent Hambantota district in the State Council.
- At the 1947 parliamentary election, two members of the family were elected to represent Hambantota district.
- The Rajapaksas continued to dominate politics in Hambantota district for next 3 decades with two other members of the family, George Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa, also entering parliament.
- The Rajapaksas were represented in the country’s legislatures continuously from 1936 till 1977. This streak ended after the UNP landslide at the 1977 parliamentary election.
- The family re-emerged as the dominant political force in Hambantota district when Mahinda and his brother Chamal Rajapaksa were elected in the 1989 Parliamentary election to represent Hambantota Electoral District. They were later joined by Nirupama Rajapaksa, Basil Rajapaksa and Namal Rajapaksa.
Central Power different from Local one
- Although the Rajapaksas had dominated politics in Hambantota District since 1936, national politics had been dominated by other families such as the Senanayake family and Bandaranaike family.
- This changed in 2005 when Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected president. Since then, members of the family have been appointed to senior political positions.
- Back during 2014 during Mahinda Rajapaksa reign (President ) budget the brothers were allocated 47% of the national budget (40% of recurrent budget and 57% of capital budget).
- Other ministries distributed among Relatives and close Family Links
- The accumulation of so much power by one family has inevitably led to accusations of nepotism
- The Rajapaksas deny the charges of nepotism even though evidence of large amounts of corruption, such as the censorship of journalists and atrocities against Tamilians in Northern Sri Lanka.
- Following the 2015 presidential election defeat, the Rajapaksa family were accused of misusing public resources during the campaign, including use of the Sri Lankan Air Force in the campaign that cost $17,273.28 (Rs. 2,278,000.00) of public funds.
- Sri Lanka Cabinet Clears Proposal for burqa ban
- Accused on being biased and against specific religion
- The external debt service payments for Sri Lanka stood at US$7 billion, against the foreign reserves of US$1.9 billion at the end of March 2022
Loopholes led to Dynasty Rule
- In India, during the independence struggle, the party was much more democratic, and its presidents changed annually.
- There were two transitory phases of the post-independence era when it did not have a Gandhi-Nehru family member as its leader for a brief period:
- 1964-1965 and early 1990s
- Both of these times actually happened to be chapters of Congress’ considerable successes and of far-reaching reforms achieved in very testing times (the commencement of the Green Revolution, the won war with Pakistan, the liberalization of economy).
- Many Indian parties are led by political families
- The Samajwadi Party, once a major power in the state of Uttar Pradesh, is now being burned from the inside by a family feud.
- Similarly, a conflict over inheritance of the party throne once led to a split of the Shiv Sena party in Maharashtra, leaving it weakened.
- The Rajapaksas have enjoyed the backing of the Sinhala majority over the years. Infact Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been Accused of killing more than 40,000 Tamilians in Sri Lanka.
- The amendment replaced the 19th amendment to the constitution of Sri Lanka which limited the power of President but still gave upper hand to President over Parliament.
- The 20th amendment enhances the executive powers to the President of the country.
- The president gets the authority to dissolve the parliament after one year.
- The proposed 20th amendment weakens the powers of Prime minister’s office and cabinet.
- President could use his executive and constitutional powers to appoint any person to the government offices in his sole discretion without consent from members of parliament.
Basil Rajapaksa – Finance Minister
- Basil Rajapaksa got sworn in as Finance Minister even after not having contested 2020 Elections . He was prohibited due to allegations of Corruption. But President of Sri- Lanka removed the Constitutional Provisions which prohibited him from becoming the one
- The Sri Lankan Presidency was, until recently, a fixed executive, not dependent or answerable to parliament and not removable except for limited reasons.
MPs not independent
- According to the prevailing version of proportional representative system, the constituency votes for the party first and the individual later.
- The party hierarchy is empowered to expel any of its members who vote against the party and replace him/her with another member of the party. An expelled MP automatically loses his/her seat.
- Instead of representing the citizens’ interests, they represent the party leaders interests.
- MPs cannot defy party diktat but a Supreme Court ruling allows them to cross-over without losing their seat.
- This enables the government to lure MP’s by offering them positions, securing a permanent voting majority.
- As MPs fear to question, parliament becomes a rubber stamp
Committees are weak
- Committees provide the greatest scrutiny but until the 19thamendment, Sri Lanka had only ceremonial “consultative”
- Instead of opposition members chairing committees Sri Lanka’s were chaired by a minister of government.
- The government was not required to respond to any reports, effectively rendering them useless.
- The 19thamendment charged committees with oversight and they were chaired by an opposition MP which was big improvement until 20th
Separation of Powers – Judiciary not a check on power
- Citizens should have the right to challenge laws in the courts. The following must be dispensed with:
- Article 80(3) prevents the people from challenging provisions in laws that have been enacted by the legislature.
- Article 35(1) – (3) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka conferring immunity upon the President from civil or criminal proceedings.
- Power of the president to pardon any offender (Article 34) undermining the judiciary. In effect, associates of the president able call on his/her goodwill may be above the law.
- Article 89 disqualifies criminals from standing for office but the President may overrule this under article 34.
- Until the 19A all supreme court judges were appointed by the president, making the courts beholden to that office.
- The 19A restored this power to an independent commission. Steps to strengthen independent commissions are discussed in more detail below and the general remarks also apply to the judiciary
- 20th CAA restored powers of the President which were in Rajapaksa Clan’s Favour
- To provide security and maintain the rule of law the police are given special powers: to arrest and detain and the power to use force. This monopoly on the use of force place the police in a unique and sensitive position within the democratic State.
- Sri Lanka’s Police Ordinance of 1865 needs to replaced & Sri Lanka needed Proper Human Rights Laws
- Article 15 of the constitution restricts fundamental rights in for a variety of reasons including parliamentary privilege, contempt of court, defamation.
- Article 16 allows any pre-existing laws to prevail notwithstanding inconsistency with fundamental rights, effectively limiting its application.
Limiting coercion by the bureaucracy
- Lack of information-on regulations, compliance procedures; insistence on meaningless procedures, unjustified fines or burdensome inspections that violate an agency’s own protocols are examples of bureaucratic oppression-actions that impose unnecessary and harmful burdens on citizens of Sri Lanka.
No Coordination among the Rulers
- The relationship between the two brothers Gotabaya and Mahinda descended into bitterness as they both clung to power.
- “Basil was the true power,” said Udaya Gammanpila, who was a cabinet minister between 2020 and 2022 before Basil had him removed in March for being publicly critical. “Gotabaya didn’t know how bad things were and Mahinda was getting old and not in the best health, he was just the figurehead. Everything was controlled by Basil.”
- “Gotabaya had no political experience and knew nothing about economics; he depended entirely on PB Jayasundara to run the economy,” said Charitha Herath, an SLPP MP who sat on several parliamentary finance committees. “The problem was, he was giving very bad advice.”
Dynasty Rule : Not a new trend
Q) Who became India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations?
[A] T S Tirumurti
[B] Ruchira Kamboj
[C] Taranjit Singh Sandhu
[D] Pooja Kapur
Correct Answer: B [Ruchira Kamboj]
Ruchira Kamboj recently became India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. As the UN ambassador, she will be the head of the Permanent Mission of India to the UN in New York City. She will succeed T S Tirumurti.