Opinion DC Comment 16 Dec 2021 DC Edit | Kashi, Ayo ...

DC Edit | Kashi, Ayodhya: Religion’s role in politics gets bigger

DECCAN CHRONICLE.
Published Dec 16, 2021, 1:48 am IST
Updated Dec 16, 2021, 1:17 pm IST
The fact is religion can never be separated from politics in India and has never been
The dramatic shift towards an emphasis on the majority religion may have come about after a historic ruling in the Supreme Court settling the Ayodhya dispute and paving the way for the construction of the Ram temple. (Representational Image/ PTI)
 The dramatic shift towards an emphasis on the majority religion may have come about after a historic ruling in the Supreme Court settling the Ayodhya dispute and paving the way for the construction of the Ram temple. (Representational Image/ PTI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the first phase of the impressive Kashi Vishwanath temple corridor project on Monday and 11 BJP chief ministers went to Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya on Tuesday to offer prayers at the Ram temple project that has just taken off. The message is starkly clear as the calendar is all set to flip to 2022, a year of crucial Assembly elections, including in Uttar Pradesh, a state that holds the key to political power at the Centre.

The images of a Prime Minister who holds a constitutional post in a democracy, secular by definition, performing religious rituals may have rekindled the debate about the role of religion in Indian politics. The fact is religion can never be separated from politics in India and has never been. The dramatic shift towards an emphasis on the majority religion may have come about after a historic ruling in the Supreme Court settling the Ayodhya dispute and paving the way for the construction of the Ram temple, years after the BJP was voted to power in New Delhi in 2014.

 

What is seen today in the backdrop of high-profile religious events is that the UP elections are round the corner. The Opposition is aware of it too as was made evident by the prominent Congress leader Rahul Gandhi voicing that he is a Hindu but not a Hindutvadi and denouncing the concept of Hindutva as promoted by politicians for power. The message that he is a Hindu only stresses the point that religion is never far from politics in India, which in the last several years has tended to define it sharply in the decline of the Congress as a national party and the rise of the BIP.

 

The play of politics should not take away the sense of aesthetics with which the cleaning up of the ancient Vishwanath temple in Kashi has been undertaken. That the redevelopment is a State enterprise is questionable but that it is driven by the ideological thrust of the right is understandable. The optics around the Prime Minister’s opening of the corridor to the river Ganga might have been overwhelming but it does not defeat the argument that religion is the hottest political issue, especially in a region from which the ruling party gains its mandate to govern the whole country.

 

The Opposition’s stance on religion in politics ranges from the left’s unambiguous criticism of Rahul Gandhis “soft Hindutva” to the more ambivalent outlook of regional parties that are not averse to playing their own brand of minority politics, or “appeasement” as it is often described by the right. The fact remains that religion plays a part in the electoral politics of India in which vote banks are built by playing up to the sentiments of various groups among those of the majority religion or in appealing to shape the loyalty of the minorities.

 

There is a distinction between promising welfare for all and offering development as a plank while tilting all power towards majoritarianism. But governance is often clouded by the ideological methodology the two opposing forces use when in power at the Centre or in the states. Ideally, State and religion should be clearly separated. It is a pity that it does not appear even remotely possible now in a country that once prided itself on unity amid diversity.

...
Location: India, Delhi




ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
-->