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Spiritual Politics: NEW BRAND ARRIVAL, By Dr S. Saraswathi, 16 February, 2018 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 16 February 2018

Spiritual Politics


By Dr S. Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)

Entire nation is watching with unmatched interest the arrival of Rajinikanth to politics. Even NTR, MGR, and Jayalalitha who all made meteoric rise in politics did not provoke this much of excitement among friends and foes alike that we experience today.


The event has become doubly significant and has gained national attention as the arrival of “spiritual politics”. Fed up with all-pervasive degeneration of politics, he wants to recast the system and promote “truthful, straightforward, and clean” politics. Rajini explains that “honest and secular politics is spiritual politics”. He was emphatic that everything had to be changed and that changes should be ushered in with transparency without shades of any caste or religion.


There is no instant taker among the numerous parties in Tamil Nadu to Rajini’s spiritual politics.  It is difficult for them to come out of Dravidian politics. His spiritual politics is an enigma to common people. They straightaway want to know what he can do to improve their daily life and what stand he will take on major issues they face. They want him to speak immediately on issues like the state of PDS, bus strike, Neet, Cauvery water, etc., as their politics starts and ends with their daily life. 


Their interests are so self-centred that they are not concerned about the way living conditions can be bettered for posterity. Perhaps, the end justifies the means more to the people at the receiving end than to the rulers.


The newcomer Rajini, unlike members of established political families, is not constrained by loyalty factor and can have no hesitation in chalking out his route and plan of action in politics.   In social set up, where cases of sons and daughters in politics ideologically confronting their parents are rare, Rajini enjoys freedom to embark on innovations.


He has only to please his fans. In the film world, the hero sets the style and the fans endorse it and not the other way. Thus, the acceptability of spiritual politics which he wants to establish depends on his ability to convince his fans and followers. In the atmosphere of communal and caste politics, to distinguish spirituality and religion is a Herculean task.


“It is time for political change. We have to create spiritual politics free of caste and religious barriers. My cornerstones would be honesty, secularity, and spiritual politics. Spiritual politics, according to me, means fair and just politics”, said Rajini.


Veteran social activists Corinne McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson in the US have drawn our attention to spiritual politics by diverting the focus from “evening news” to the hidden spiritual causes of world affairs. The two authors have outlined the core platform for “transformational politics” which is an “attempt to create a synthesis out of polarity”. The synthesis will replace the politics of rivalries, conflicts, divisions, and competitions.

The authors explain that spirituality based politics is guided by moral values, i.e. politics not directed to promote only individual interests, but to raise their deepest values as human beings, to provide greater sense of community, higher vision of public life and service to the common good. Regard for others and courage in politics are projected to offset money power in politics, and apathy and cynicism of the public.


Common good in the place of greed and lust for power is at the centre of the higher vision of public life offered in spiritual politics. Spirituality here is not to be confused with religion in politics or treated as opposite of “secular” politics. It is very much a secular concept aimed at achieving progress, prosperity and peace for all through fair means with a spirit of service. The adjective “spiritual” given to politics is concerned with material well-being for all and not a metaphysical doctrine or a utopian ideal.


In this sense, it is not irrelevant in our country where multi-polar groups and interests with conflicting thoughts and competitive ambitions flourish. Any religion can help one to attain spirituality, but spirituality does not need a base in religion.


In India, no political party can presently hope to win an election by presenting abstract concepts, moral lessons or even welfare ideologies. These have to be translated into concrete schemes and programmes that make sense to the voters in everyday life. Crudely put, it is the rule of subsidies and cash for votes in many places. 


In this context, the very term “spiritual politics” may frighten people. Self-proclaimed secularists and rationalists may try to twist it out of shape to create a bogey of religion in politics. Hence, a more acceptable term like “value-based politics” with clear enunciation of the values to be promoted and cherished may be needed if it wants to survive.


The Washington Post, in a poll has found that more than healthcare and education, American voters are concerned about moral values. Key areas of what is called “spiritual activism” are said to be care of the poor and handicapped, and reduction of violence and drug abuse.


Mahatma Gandhi advocated spiritualisation of politics by which he meant not mixing up of religion and politics, but politics based on truth and non-violence. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, internationally renowned peace-maker and founder of the Art of Living wants spirituality to come into politics. To him, politics is for caring for people. He says, “We need to spiritualise politics, socialise business, and secularise religion. Devoid of spirituality, politics breeds corruption”.


The Center for Visionary Leadership, Washington DC, founded in 1996 is assisting people to develop the inner spiritual resources. There are a number of new groups experimenting with innovative approach to reform the basics of governance to give primacy to enlightened leadership, decentralised organisation, participatory system, and consensual decision-making.


Spirituality in politics, stressed by Rajinikanth is to be understood as a concept shifted away from religion to bring out the best in leaders and government; finer response to problems of governance with fairness and empathy, inclusive and disciplined approach with a service mind towards achieving prosperity and peace. It must be distinguished by its approach and means. It must be politics that believes in tolerance and brotherhood in human relations, and consensus and synthesis in resolving issues. It should develop leadership that respects diversities and differences.


Several of the key concepts of spiritual politics are already known and practised in our country though no political party has come forward to build their organisation on that platform.  Mahatma Gandhi was forgotten long time ago. Sarvodaya and Antyodaya have become mere source of some government welfare schemes. “Satyameva Jayate” (truth shall prevail) is but a motto on paper.   


Post-independence political parties and leaders are immersed more in electoral politics than in good governance. There is urgent need to overhaul the system and re-orient the system operators as well as shake up people from their indifference and apathy.


Value-based politics should be the essence of spiritual politics. It should comprise personal values like integrity, fairness, courage, compassion, and orderliness; organisational values like efficiency, economy, professionalism, and loyalty/patriotism; and social values like common good, unity and solidarity, fraternity, peace and prosperity. These should be reflected in political thoughts and actions. --- INFA


(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

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