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In Dynasty, biographer Pranay Gupte sheds light on the Nehrus and Gandhis of India, the longest lasting political dynasty in the modern world. The family's origins can be controversially traced back 200 years to Kashmir, where the Nehrus belonged to the Kashmiri Brahman Pandit class, and it has been in power for nearly a century.

Since its patriarch, British-trained lawyer and Indian National Movement activist, Motilal Nehru, ascended to the presidency of the National Congress, the family has produced three Prime Ministers--Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. The current leader of the Congress Party, Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, is widely perceived as the most powerful woman in contemporary Indian politics, and her son, Rahul Gandhi, is the anointed successor.

It is a dynasty that has ruled through statesmanship, guile and political savvy. It has enjoyed enormous popularity and power, suffered enormous tragedy (Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were assassinated), and reversals of fortune. Most notably it wrested India from British colonial control and defined Independent India from its inception in 1948. Yet the founding prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was an intimate friend of the wife of Lord Mountbatten, Britain's last viceroy.

Except for a brief period--during the time of Indira Gandhi, and again after her death--the family has ruled by popular mandate, unlike other dynasties and autocracies in South Asia and the East. In this sense, the Nehrus/Gandhis are closer to the great ruling dynasties of the West, such as the Kennedys and the Bushes. The story of that family, its ambitions and striving for power, is gripping.

Publication Date: 
October 22, 2020