The Supreme Court has rightly outlawed seeking votes in the name of religion, caste, race, community or language, a potentially far-reaching verdict ahead of assembly elections in five states where faith and caste have traditionally driven voting. India is officially secular but political parties have traditionally used religion and caste as the main criteria to select candidates and to appeal to voters. The SC has rightly pointed out that “Election is a secular exercise and therefore a process should be followed. The relationship between man and God is an individual choice and state should keep this in mind.” It is a blow for parties which have been fighting elections on the development plank. Religion should not be mixed with politics because many politicians are playing with human beings feelings in the name of religion for votes.
Justice Thakur has rightly said that by allowing a candidate to take advantage of the voters’ religious identity merely to gain votes would be a disservice to the “little man” and against public interest. The majority of the judges ruled that “An appeal in the name of religion, race, caste, community or language is impermissible under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and would constitute a corrupt practice sufficient to annul the election in which such an appeal was made regardless whether the appeal was in the name of the candidate’s religion or the religion of the election agent or that of the opponent or that of the voter’s.” Religion is a private affair and if it is allowed to appear in public affairs it will corrupt politics. Religion encourages fanaticism and suspends our reasoning power and we repose full faith in leaders.
It is a good decision to support nation’s secular character. A leader cannot discriminate one group over other for vote bank. The law will make it difficult to political leaders to seek votes in the name of religion/caste and misguide a large segment of voters in the name of religion. Political parties must make development their election agenda. Mixing religion with politics will only lead to hatred, hostility and violence including communal and sectarian violence. It is clear that political parties issue tickets on the basis of religion, caste, language, etc. to candidates of their respective area. Moreover media should refrain from starting debates, opinion polls, exit polls, analysis on religious, casteism etc. Political parties exploit religious sentiments of the people to derive political mileage.
The verdict will have momentous implications in states like Uttar Pradesh, where the construction of a Ram Temple in Ajodhya and caste-based mobilization are top poll planks. India is officially secular but political parties have traditionally used religion and caste as the main criteria to select candidates and to appeal to voters. It is to be remembered that religion politics are both combustible subjects, and throwing them into each other’s arms is sure to cause a fire. Discrimination on the basis of religion and caste is the bane of Indian society. Every effort should be made to eliminate this inhuman and indefensible practice.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)