Lok Sabha polls 2014: Divine Right; What the wise men say

Written by Leher Kala | New Delhi | Updated: Apr 7 2014, 16:16pm hrs
Two days before voting its hard for almost anything else to be relevant conversation besides the elections. Its the last leg of campaigning and theres simply no getting away from the frenzied and breathless debates on TV, full page ads in newspapers and the frightful voiceovers that have made listening to the radio sheer torture. But politics in India remains engagingly absurd, after all, where else in the world could an ex-Chief Minister (even if just for 40 days) get slapped while campaigning Abuses and accusations are flying about with ferocity, and the cultural context, even the very meaning of the word shehzada has changed forever. In this shrill and volatile discourse, theres little space for mild-mannered rationalists to make it in politics: unless theyre donning saffron robes and dispensing blessings. This election seems to have several spiritual gurus on the campaign trail, soliciting votes and promoting candidates. Even if they dont have prior experience in office, they have already amassed followers in their religious careers. Considering the wary suspicion with which politicians are regarded, an evolved holy man stands tall by comparison. The BJP candidate from east Delhi has been the international director of the Art of Living. Another religious leader Swami Sumedhanand is also a BJP contestant.

Even though many of Indias spiritual gurus have been ousted as self-serving sexual offenders (as recent allegations against Asaram Bapu show), in the absence of other strong role models, its no surprise that self- appointed holy men find it easy to gather a following in politics. The Indian voter is so completely disillusioned with chaos and obscene levels of corruption that even a long-haired, saffron-clad hermit is strangely comforting and maybe even appropriate as a political leader. After all, if so many politicians in India can come to power despite a dodgy criminal background, why not someone from a spiritual one who has already invested time in bettering himself But spirituality in India largely means giving up of material needs while politics needs big money to thrive, or even survive. How can the two, if ever, be reconciled A yoga guru may be very wise when it comes to giving advise on health and a more fulfilling lifestyle through meditation. But creating jobs, building infrastructure and negotiating the terms of coalition politics requires astuteness of a different kind. Voters, more than ever, are keen on clean politics and its precisely by extolling the virtues of truth, self-sacrifice and righteousness that a leader like Arvind Kejriwal has emerged, even though he has no clear agenda for the future.

This election is particularly interesting since its the first one where several new candidates from different fields are so actively involved, be it journalists, doctors and even industrialists. All the new politicians evoke Gandhian values of ahimsa and honesty. Though religion will always be a part of politics in India, there is a larger conversation about dharma this time. Modern spirituality for the young leader isnt about renouncing the world but about reformation. Long before he spoke up for one political party, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has spoken about how spirituality practices offer a counterweight to corruption and help form an ethical framework for government and business. Theres no need to think in absolutes, awareness will slowly involve us all.