The role of political families among India’s elites is frequently denounced in the Indian merdia as a subversion of democratic power. It has become a key issue because of the large number of elected representatives related to personalities already active in politics, and therefore known as “dynasts”. A recent study relying on a dataset of the Lok Sabha MPs returned in 2004, 2009 and 2014, the “Chandra, Bohlken, Chauchard Dataset on Dynasticism in the Indian Parliament, 2014”, has revealed that a “quarter of Indian parliamentarians have been dynastic, on average, between 2004 and 2014…” (Chandra 2016a, 15). But it is difficult to draw robust conclusions on the basis of only three Lok Sabha legislatures.     

SPINPER builds a typology of political dynasties. The first type is represented by families who have held seats in the same constituency for generations. The second type is represented by families that hold more than one seat simultaneously in neighbouring constituencies (these seats may belong to one or the other assembly – or to both, Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha). The third type is represented by families that hold more than one seat simultaneously in non-adjacent constituencies (which may even belong to two different states).

In this typology, a “political dynasty” is made up of the relatives of a politician who has contested an election in the locality before others. These relatives may be of the same generation (husbands, wives), of the next generations (children, grandsons/daughters, sons/daughters-in-law) and up to the second degree (nephews, nieces, cousins).

SPINPER compares the present day situation with previous ones as political families are not at all new in India. But they are more numerous and while they came from the aristocratic milieus of ex-Maharajahs and Nawabs, as well as other dominant notables at the helm of clientelistic networks after independence, today they are mostly made up of “parvenus”. Many of them come from the lower castes and this development qualifies the inclusiveness due to the rise of the OBCs in the states where they remain strong: dynasties of OBC MLAs have in fact perpetuated themselves at the helm of constituencies – and parties.