In politics, family feuds rule

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By RADHIKA RAMASESHAN in Delhi
  • Published 22.04.06
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New Delhi, April 22: Indian politics is no stranger to family feuds.

While none may have climaxed in violence of the intensity that was witnessed in the Mahajan household this morning, they have left their trail of “bad blood”, aborted ambitions, startling rises, broken homes and reprisals.

The most dramatic of the feuds can be traced to the first family, the Nehru-Gandhis. A very public spat led to an irrevocable parting of ways between Indira Gandhi and her younger daughter-in-law, Maneka, after Sanjay Gandhi’s widow signalled her intention to step into her late husband’s shoes in the Congress.

Congress old-timers recalled that it was a given in the Nehru-Gandhi household that once a decision was taken (by the family head), nobody would oppose it. Therefore, when Indira brought Sanjay into politics, older brother Rajiv continued to be a pilot.

Trouble started when Maneka became politically restless. Eventually, once it was apparent that Indira would bring Rajiv into politics, Maneka walked out of the household and floated her own party, the Sanjay Vichar Manch.

When it became clear that she could not take on her estranged mother-in-law politically, Maneka used another device. She denied Indira the joy of spending time with her grandson, Varun, once a week.

Another struck by a feud was the Scindia family. Mother Vijayaraje and son Madhavrao fell out during the Emergency. It is not known whether the reason was political or personal. After the Emergency, Madhavrao joined the Congress and Vijayaraje remained with the Jan Sangh (later the BJP).

The proverbial “outsider”, Vijayaraje’s secretary, Sardar Angre, was apparently a sore point. The Rajmata’s daughters, Vasundhara and Yashodhara remained with their mother.

The political divisions cast their shadow on the Scindias’ property and a fight broke out after Vijayaraje’s death. Angre produced a “will” that was contested by Madhavrao.

The battle is still being fought between Angre and Madhavrao’s son, Jyotiraditya, a Congress MP.

The nouveau brigade has had its share of conflicts. Andhra film star N.T. Rama Rao stormed his way into regional politics and became the kernel of the “third front” in the eighties.

But the Andhra icon’s emotive ties with his companion, Lakshmi Parvathi, who he married, were looked at askance by his family, more so by his sons-in-law. The wiliest of them, N. Chandrababu Naidu, sniffed his chance in NTR’s dwindling graph in his second stint as chief minister, regrouped the legislators and pulled off a coup against NTR.

Bal Thackeray, another successful regional satrap, was done in by his family.

First, his perceived indulgence of his daughter-in-law, Smita, upset his sons. When he chose his son Uddhav over his more “political” nephew Raj as the Shiv Sena legatee, the party split.