The word ‘religion’ is very hard to define. There are too many religions— monotheistic, duo-theistic, polytheistic—in the world . Simply speaking , religion’ deals with relationship between some superhuman , controlling power and our material and spiritual existence. It is a guide to the  development of entire humanity. There is no single school of thought within any religion. Finer versions of all religions treat all individuals and groups as equals . 
However, certain politically and economically self-centered elements within almost all communities have occasionally arrived on the world scene with such versions and interpretations of religions as have given rise to the evils, including racialism , communalism, sectarianism,  and casteism, in different parts of our planet. 
Keeping this history of misuse in view , the founding fathers of our Constitution have made secularism-- equal freedom and respect for all religions-- one of the quintessential principles of the State. The Preamble of our Constitution commands all citizens, government functionaries and masses alike , to imbibe and practise secularism in the public domain for the common good of all social segments in the country. 
Regrettably, our politics is increasingly being detrimental to the very idea of our Democratic Republic . There is a near consensus among non-partisan Indian observers that the standard of our political class, in general,  has  fallen down monumentally over the years. The behavioural pattern of this class shows its deep inclination to feudal temperament and obsession with an economic lifestyle incomparably higher than that of the masses . 
Seldom do our politicians focus on evolving  such policies and strategies as would foster the multi-faceted development of the masses--- particularly, women, oppressed social sections, farmers and  other have-nots. This has resulted in the continuance of massive poverty, squalor, illiteracy in India even after over seventy years of our independence. 
The consensus goes that most of our politicians do not have the slightest compunction in throwing to the wind the constitutional morality of secularism if their calculus to capture political power demands so. This can be discerned in their distortion and misuse of our constitutional provisions for affirmative action / positive discrimination . 
The spirit behind our founding fathers’ idea of affirmative action was to integrate all our historically excluded social groups into the national mainstream by granting them reasonable preferences in the areas of education and employment. At the time of elections the politicians frequently misuse this affirmative action idea by promising special benefits to  certain groups along the lines of caste, creed , language and region . They also gang up with certain sectarian heads and local goons to reach out to their target groups.  

Hopefully, the Supreme Court’s  seven-judge Constitution Bench ruling ( January 2 , 2017) would curb this political pattern . The judgment of the Court Bench led by then Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur goes that an appeal for votes on the basis of religion, caste, race, community or language will amount to a ‘corrupt practice’ and call for disqualification of the candidate. 

The Bench has observed , “Election is a secular exercise… The relationship between man and God is an individual choice… the state should keep this in mind.” Chief Justice Thakur said that election to the State legislature or the Parliament or any civic body “is a secular exercise;”  “the functions of the elected representatives must be secular in both outlook and practice.”  

Justice  Madan B. Lokur said the primary legislative aim of Section 123(3) of the Representation of People Act is to “curb communal and separatist tendencies in the country.”  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. Justice S.A. Bobde  observed  Section 123 proscribed all appeals based on sectarian, linguistic or caste considerations during election campaigns in order to “infuse a modicum of oneness, transcending such barriers."
I am sure finer elements, there are still many, across the Indian political spectrum would appreciate the significance of the Court’s order on the  subject. They must get together and contribute to reining in the elements friendly to the evils of communalism, casteism and regionalism in our society. Promoting such evils is absolutely antithetical to our  constitutional values of democracy, secularism and all-inclusive development.


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