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Nirmala Ganapathy
Sunday, May 4, 2014

Asia

Political sons and daughters step up

The Straits Times | Nirmala Ganapathy | Sunday, May 4, 2014

Ms Misa Bharti, daughter of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD, National People's Party) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, is contesting in the 2014 elections in India.

When Indian regional chieftain Lalu Prasad Yadav, 65, of the Rashtriya Janata Dal announced that his daughter Misa Bharti would fight parliamentary polls in the eastern state of Bihar, at least one senior party leader quit in protest against the dynastic politics.

Still, Ms Bharti, 38, is now hoping to win the seat of Pataliputra to carry on the legacy of her father, one of India's most colourful politicians known for his quick wit but barred from contesting any elections after being convicted of corruption last year.

Every morning, Ms Bharti leaves home to campaign and to try and revive her father's party, which is in a close alliance with the ruling Congress party.

"I feel honoured to carry forward the legacy," she said.

Her husband, Mr Shailesh Kumar, 38, an entrepreneur who is on the campaign trail with his wife, admits that a good portion of the crowd that shows up at rallies does so partly out of curiosity about his wife, the eldest of seven children.

"The advantage of the parents' legacy works both ways. You get a head start but you have to perform. There is a lot of pressure on her but she is doing quite well," said Mr Kumar.

In Bihar, yet another regional leader, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party, a regional party, is grooming his son, actor-turned-politician Chirag Paswan, to take over.

India is undergoing a nine- phase national election, with the seventh round of polling having taken place on Wednesday in nine states, including big states Punjab, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. There are two more rounds on May 7 and 12.

With voting due to end soon, opinion polls show that the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is ahead and likely to form the next government.

The Congress trails in second place in a massive election involving 814 million voters, including 100 million first-time voters.

Among the political parties undergoing generational change, the most well-known is the Congress, for its powerful Gandhi-Nehru dynasty that has given the country three prime ministers.

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