Every profession has nepotism built in it. In earlier days when there was no organized work culture, that time also the work was handed over to the next generation at an appropriate time. It had advantages such as continuity and ease of doing the work. The story of Arjun and Eklavya tells us about shades of nepotism in olden days.
When there was no democracy and the baton of ruling the country used to be handed over to the close confidant and that would always be a son or daughter of the king.
Nepotism the word was derived from the Latin root nepos meaning Nephew when the Catholic bishops used to bequeath their property to a nephew. As they themselves used to lead an ascetic life. Over the period of time nepotism gained negative meaning. Interested may read more about it. The dictionary meaning of nepotism is - the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs. Crony is when friends are favoured.
Indian business is mostly family oriented and therefore nepotism is institutionalized or rather familarized. Ethically there is nothing wrong in practicing such a business model. As family business belongs to the person, for that person and is run by that person. Naturally succession is by appointment of a relative to lead the business. The family business owner may bestow favours to anyone he likes as he owns the business.
There can be a debate whether politics is a profession or not. But many politicians consider it as a profession. Not only that, over a period of time they start thinking of the party as their fiefdom. There the trouble begins. People who are there in politics after a few years of enjoying various forms of power, get used to having sarkari awas, gaadi, security, cook and servants. After a few years of experiencing power they cling to these freebies rather than clinging to ideology. They become so used to these freebies, that they start fighting for these freebies rather than fighting for the ideology. The sense of entitlement becomes so strong that the politicians go to any extent to protect it. They fight for free things. They change the party for the freebies and dump the ideology when it comes to choose between ideology and freebies. After many years when their career starts coming to a naught, they quickly put succession plans into place and introduce their children or close relatives so that the free things and the power remain with them.
When the orbit of nepotism enlarges, the party is taken over by the family. Now nepotism is so huge that it becomes a dynastic party. Motilal Nehru introduced Jawaharlal to be president and his sisters were given posts in UN and as governor of the states. The spread and reach of nepotism become so much that the democracy gets subverted and financial and land irregularities start. Every constitutional institution and every pillar of democracy is subverted by friends and relatives of the family. They call them loyalists. An ecosystem is developed. That’s how the ‘Damad’ although not in politics became notorious for his land dealings. The daughter of the family who is no one, clings to a huge government bungalow right in the heart of New Delhi till she was served a notice and showed the non-entitlement. Every political party has nepotism. Cadre based parties have less of nepotism. For this reason, BJP and Left have few examples of nepotism rather than single family party like congress, TMC, JD (S) BSP mulayams SP, Shivsena and MNS etc. One can see in the case of Shivsena and MNS there is no ideology except the name and fight for freebies. Almost all parties other than BJP and Left have their woes in nepotism.
In the beginning nepotism helps to a certain extent to enlarge the base of the party which is run by a family. Congress was not a family run party till such time Motilal Nehru took over it and then handed it over to Jawaharlal Nehru. At the end nepotism hurts and brings down the same party which it helped to grow. As the party gets crowded by below average merit yes men as party workers. The old guard loyalists in congress is the best example of this.
To stop nepotism growing and enlarging its orbit is to protect the democracy. Those who say that democracy should be protected, first have to shun nepotism. The best way to keep the party out of nepotism is to have a cadre-based party. Second most important is to hold internal elections at regular intervals. At present congress has none of these attributes and therefore the decay.
Nepotism is good when it is for me, by me and of me. Current example - we all know the family. It is good for the family. Nepotism is degenerative when it is used in a democratic party where the principles of democracy - we the people, by the people and for the people are enshrined.