Ignore the Idiots : Why religion should matter in politics
Politics impacts our life. For most normal countries there is only one way politics affects our lives. That is; through the laws our politicians pass. I am using the term “law” very loosely than the traditional meaning of the word to include everything that state has authority to enforce through violence. For example criminal laws, licensing, taxation, eminent domain, other regulations, price controls etc.
In a country where government tries to control too many things there will be too many laws which will impact nearly everything citizens do. Where the impact is more the people with skin in the game will work hard to convince politicians to pass/repeal certain set of laws in a way that benefits them. For example when government imposes a tax on airlines it affects airlines, hotels, logistics companies and so on. These people would then gang up to compel politicians to lower the tax. Like price movements in the markets which happen through human actions but not human design this sort of lobbying with government too happens through too many different agents trying to influence government policy.
Whether we should mix X with politics or not totally depends on one thing. Is government passing laws to affect X in isolation ? If that answer is yes than whether you like it or not X will get mixed up with politics. Any person who advices X should not be mixed with politics is either an ignorant idiot who has no skin in the game for X or is one of the typical virtue signaling talking heads on television channels.
Should religion be mixed with politics ?
Religion appears to be an integral part of Indian politics. If a supposedly Hindu politician visits a temple and signs a non-Hindu register it becomes a national issue. His party then has to go out of the way to clarify that the leader is not just a Hindu but a janeu wearing Hindu. There are laws that are supposed to make sure politicians don’t mix religion in political campaigning and yet we see it happening all that time.
Why is it that religion matters in politics in reality while say something like Raashi (moon sign) does not ? Raashi is as real as religion and every newspaper in the country has Raashifal (predictions based on moon sign) in it. Skin color is another big thing in India if you were to believe whitening cream advertisements, and yet, we have not seen anyone claim he should be voted into office because he is fair or dark.
Indian constitution treats citizens based on their religion. There are special privileges that are baked into Indian constitution for selected religions. This has real world consequences for people who belong to those religions and those who don’t. Some people belonging to a certain religion are either little poor or little rich because of those constitutional articles/amendment and that laws that flow from it. Hence these people would gang up to bring religion into politics to better their position. Not only it is a natural consequence but it is one of the important feature of any democracy. People creating associations based on things that deeply care about.
If Indian constitution had stated that every Manglik girl should get subsidy for her marriage and her husband should be given a government job, you would have instantly created an industry where women would struggle hard to prove themselves as manglik and gang up to pass more laws to increase their benefits. Instantly, astrology and position of Mars in sky would have become a matter of politics. National Commission for Mangalik Women would be a constitutional body that would give mangalik certificates based on the time of the birth as recorded by government approved astrologer in the maternity wards. But Indian constitution offers no special rights to mangalik girls and hence astrology does not get mixed up with politics.
But what kind of religious discrimination does our Indian constitution engage into ? Article 30 of Indian constitution gives special rights to minority religions to run and administer their own institutions which by extension means Hindu run educational institutions can get crushed under government regulations but Church run institutions can not. Laws like RTE and 93rd amendment can be seen as extensions of this article with a very partisan interpretation.
RTE has resulted into closure of 10 thousands schools in last 4 years in Maharashtra alone. Every single of that school was run by Hindus. Not one of those schools were owned by minorities.
Temple control is the another area. Most of the rich Hindu temples are controlled by government and their corrupt system while no Church or Mosque is run by government.
I will leave aside the topics like Anti-Superstition law, minority only scholarships and various other small ticket items.
Skin in the Game
People with no skin in the game are incapable of comprehending this. Some of them even have perverse gains by simply engaging in virtue signaling claiming “religion should not be mixed with politics”. This sort of people include social activists who appear on television for a living, political pimps who moonlight as journalists, retired civil servants who have joined politics and elites who think they have a natural right to lecture others as they themselves are superior to ordinary masses.
This also includes politicians who get elected on narrow issues or appointed to high offices without having a mass base or intellectual fortitude. Part of the reason why the current administration has not made any move on RTE despite an expectation from their foot-soldiers is because the top leadership is simply not invested in education as their own kids safely get seats in top minority institutions. Without that skin in the game they can not comprehend the issue.
Lingayat Protests : People with skin in the game
Lingayat community recently made a demand that they should be recognized as a separate religion. Interestingly none of the major political parties understood the root cause of that demand. Lingayat community has invested a lot in education. Around 40% of the higher education seats in Karnataka are controlled by institutions run by various Lingayat organizations. They saw that there is a real benefit in getting recognized as religious minority as it will enable them to run their institutions more freely.
Other than Pejawar Swamiji no public figure seems to have figured it out or stated publicly that Article 30 is the root cause of why Lingayats want a separate religion status.
When politicians and talking heads on TV debated this issue hardly anyone pointed out this real reason in a classic case of “When a wise man points at the moon the imbecile examines the finger”
Accepting the principle : No Religion in Law and Constitution.
Any person who opposes religion in politics must be ready to repeal all laws and remove all constitutional articles that treat people differently based on their religion. Early stalwarts of BJP had understood this and that manifested in their opposition to Muslim Personal Law. While BJP was busy brooding; Congress government made much more progress on sectarian laws and passed 93rd amendment and RTE. While BJP continues to focus on Uniform Civil Code they seem to have lost sight of the underlying principle.
Any person who publicly supports RTE and Article 30 is mixing religion and law and naturally supports mixing religion and politics. You can not have your cake and eat it too.
The real danger of the sectarian laws lies in the fact that once you accept them in principle it is a slippery slope you can not escape. It is part of the reason why you see disastrous legislations like “anti-superstition law” or courts overstepping their authority to selectively ban Hindu festivals and practices without providing a proper rationale.
It is extremely easy to engage in virtue signaling. It is hard to figure out the principles and stick to them for a cost. People who do former without the later must be treated as idiots and should be ignored completely.
As long as the law differentiates you based on your religion it is suicidal not to mix religion and politics because you then expose yourself to tyranny.