Indian voters like dynasties, if not Gandhi: Poll

A worker from India's ruling Congress party holds a broken cut-out of Mr Rahul Gandhi, Congress party vice-president and son of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, which was damaged in rain and thunder storm before the start of a party meeting ahead of the
A worker from India's ruling Congress party holds a broken cut-out of Mr Rahul Gandhi, Congress party vice-president and son of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, which was damaged in rain and thunder storm before the start of a party meeting ahead of the 2014 general election in Kolkata on March 25, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Indian voters are largely comfortable with electing dynastic candidates despite dire predictions in upcoming polls for Mr Rahul Gandhi, scion of the country's most celebrated political family, a survey said on Tuesday.

A poll released by the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace confirmed recent surveys pointing to a strong showing by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after a decade of rule by Mr Gandhi's Congress Party.

Mr Gandhi, 43, whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather were all prime ministers, is the candidate from the centre-left Congress Party in elections starting on April 7, going against the BJP's Narendra Modi, the son of a tea-stall owner.

But the poll did not support suggestions that Indians have rejected hereditary candidates. Instead, 46 per cent of voters said they preferred politicians who hail from dynasties.

"What we found was kind of shocking," said Mr Milan Vaishnav, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment's South Asia programme.

"Nearly one in two Indians say, if I had a choice, I would prefer to vote for a candidate who has a family background," he said.

The vast majority of voters who preferred dynasties said they thought such candidates would be more adept or likely to succeed, with only 15 per cent saying that their main motivation was an expectation of patronage.

Twenty-nine per cent of Indian lawmakers elected in the last election in 2009 succeeded family members or have relatives also serving in parliament, a figure that rose by nine percentage points from the previous vote in 2004, Mr Vaishnav said.

The survey, conducted with the University of Pennsylvania's Center for the Advanced Study of India, took opinions from 65,000 households as part of a project that will examine changing trends.

When asked about voting preferences in late 2013, 31 per cent sided with the BJP-led alliance and 23 preferred the Congress-led coalition, in what would amount to a reversal of fortunes since the last election.

The survey showed the BJP gaining ground in the Hindi-speaking northern heartland of India and among rural voters, despite attempts by Congress to appeal to the poor.

The Congress-led coalition lost ground among a wide range of voters but retained a strong advantage among the Muslim minority.

Mr Modi led the western state of Gujarat during 2002 religious riots in which more than 1,000 people were killed, mostly Muslims, although legal inquiries cleared him of personal wrongdoing.

Comments