India’s next Prime Minister is most likely to come from the following set of people: Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, J Jayalalitha, Naveen Patnaik, Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee. The list is not exhaustive. But as a rough rule of thumb, it is in the decreasing order of each individual’s probability of realising their Prime Ministerial ambitions.
The above set of people occupy different places on a wide ideological spectrum and are remarkably unlike each other in multiple ways. Mayawati is Dalit. J Jayalalitha is a Brahmin woman leading a party that traces its origin to the Non-Brahmin Movement. Naveen Patnaik is a posh man who seems to have outgrown his dynastic privileges. Mamata Banerjee is, well, her. Narendra Modi is a child of the RSS. And Rahul Gandhi is a Gandhi. Their political mantles are things each has usurped or inherited or claimed or created from scratch or fought desperately for.
However, the one thing that seems common between these diverse aspirants is: they are all single and have remained so all their lives. They are well past the mean age for marriage in the society that each comes from. It is also possible that a few or all of them are homosexual; in a society where homosexuality is still illegal, being that publicly is not politically viable.
Each individual’s sexuality or marital preference taken in isolation is hardly interesting. But when top six contenders for the Prime Minister of 1.2 Billion people are all either heterosexual and single or gay and closeted, in a polity that is known for dynastic succession, it is interesting. The last political leader who was in control of his party to have occupied the post of Prime Minister — AB Vajpayee — also fits into the above category of people.
The women in the group are all self-made and do not owe their position to either a husband or a father. Their will is supreme in their respective party and no one questions their leadership. The other prominent woman Chief Minister — a married Vasundhara Raje from a royal family — is not as sure of her position in her own party. Sheila Dixit, as a three term Chief Minister of Delhi who can’t be termed as completely self-made, wasn’t as sure of her’s either. Among the men in the list, two out of three are dynastic successors. Their single-dom could well be a perfect accident. And if one extends the list, the next in line are possibly Nitish Kumar and Shivraj Singh Chouhan; both married men.
The hypothesis one is tempted to put forward therefore is: ‘single’ people are more successful in Indian politics across the gender divide but for women it’s a necessary condition if they are self-made.