In India Corruption goes hand in hand with nepotism. It goes on in government and private jobs both. Nepotism is common in politics, judiciary, and business and in the film industry. It goes on even in religious circles, arts, industry, and other types of organisations. Many members of Parliament and various Legislative Assemblies have a generations-long legacy of nepotism allocation of constituencies to their relatives. Many judges and advocates of the High courts and the Supreme Court are alleged to be appointed by exercising casteism, nepotism and favouritism, primarily because the Supreme Court and the High Court’s uses a non-transparent undemocratic appointment process called Collegiate which recommends to the President, in a legally binding manner, the names of judges to be appointed or promoted to the higher judiciary. The various judicial services exams are also infamous for these practices. The Bajaj family is related to the Birla family which itself is related to the Biyani family by marriage. Moreover, dynasty in politics remains. Rahul Gandhi, Vice-President of the Indian National Congress party, is a descendent of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi & Rajiv Gandhi. Data shows since 1999, the Congress has had 36 dynastic MPs elected to the Lok Sabha, with the BJP not far behind with 31 dynastic MPs. The highly popular sport of cricket is also affected with nepotism, although to a lesser extent, in the form of Stuart Binny, Rohan Gavaskar and very recently Arjun Tendulkar. Home minister Amit Shah’s son was appointed as the BCCI secretary.
Growing nepotism in the Indian film industry (Bollywood)
The Kapoor families and many other Indian film actors have been known for bringing their children into the industry with their endorsements and influence for decades. However, a fresh debate on nepotism soon followed the untimely demise of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, investigations into which have pointed to professional rivalry and instances of “bullying”. As per media reports, he was ostracized by the film fraternity despite being an accomplished actor. Filmmaker Karan Johar, with whom Rajput had worked in the Netflix film Drive, was quickly hailed as the flagbearer of nepotism by actress Kangana Ranaut, with Rajput’s fans calling for a boycott of Johar and his banner, Dharma Productions, as well as of actor Salman Khan and his brothers, who were greatly accused of bullying outsiders in the past. Actors and actresses like Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, Janhvi Kapoor, Ishaan Khatter, Ananya Pandey, Athiya Shetty, Tiger Shroff, Arjun Kapoor, Sara Ali Khan, all of whom hail from film families, were also widely criticized for their mediocre filmography and quickly lost millions of social media fans and followers within a week. Responding to allegations of nepotism against her, Sonam Kapoor sparked controversy with a tweet on Father’s Day, with trolls calling her out for delivering poor films in the past few years.
In recent weeks, nepotism has become centre stage in mainstream public discourse. Triggered by speculations over the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, the debate was initially confined to the film industry. But it has since spread to other domains. What began as a hashtag about a tragic death has acquired a life of its own. How do we understand this sudden upsurge, given that nepotism is not a new phenomenon?
In India, whichever field one may consider, there is no denying the prevalence of influential families that wield nepotistic influence. But does this mean we make peace with nepotism? Certainly not. But a lot depends on how the debate is framed, and the nature of the contingent politics around the nepotism discourse.