The profound ways in which modern democracies are inflected by dynasticism, it becomes an intriguing question—is singlehood an ideal state to be in for those who dedicate their life and work to a larger cause? Even with all his faults, the one who sought to craft a model life in politics is Gandhi. In the quasi-ascetic prototype he created and tried to fill, the inner tension is immediately evident: the model strains towards singlehood; family is an encumbrance. Power naturally creates vested interests with a stake in continuing that power—whether through family or through a parallel group formation based around a set of ideas. But dynasticism flows directly and exclusively from descendancy, like with the royal houses of old, and concentrates power within too narrow a pool—an essentially anti-democratic feature. Though it would be bizarre to imagine singlehood being in any way prescribed as an ideal for public life, by some stroke of accident, Indian politics seems suddenly blessed with a whole pantheon of unmarried/single personages sitting in high office—with Prime Minister Narendra Modi perched on top.
Positive arguments valorising that status are fairly common. When Yogi Adityanath took office recently, there was no dearth of soul-searching on what it connoted in political terms, but his single status was extolled as a virtue. Yogi, of course, is not a chance bachelor. The mahant of Gorakhnath temple, he is by choice outside the field of matrimony—like members of a monastic order. “He is single and unencumbered. He can work with more commitment and focus. Most of all, he has no family for whom he might be tempted to amass wealth through corrupt means”—this was the refrain of BJP leaders who sought to explain the curious choice.