When you think of a religious leader and add the word politics to it, many of us painfully see Baba Ramdev flash in our heads. Who can forget his claims of ‘indefinite fasts’ to get the Jan Lokpal bill passed or his ‘sareeescape’ in disguise at one of the rallies? His staunch involvement in the political circuit and especially with Kejriwal led many to believe that he is a part of the inner circle.
However, contrary to popular belief, Baba Ramdev is not associated with any political party. Sure, he threatened the formation of his political wing, ‘Bharat Swabhiman’ in 2010 (and then 2014) but the party has not seen the light of the day. Instead, he formed a trust with a similar name which ran under the ECI scanner during 2014 elections for alleged funding of other political outfits. He is currently being offered the position of a Cabinet Minister in Haryana but active politics seem to elude this renowned yoga guru. Despite this, he manages to make his presence felt.
As is often the case, the lethal combination of politics and religion often lead to controversies and heated polarized debates. The recent 2014 elections are not the only one to witness this. While Ramdev’s political status remains dubious, let us look at some religious and spiritual leaders who forayed into the world of politics and what controversies followed.
1) Yogi Adityanath
He is a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament who has represents Gorakhpur in the Lok Sabha since 1998. Adityanath is the Mahant or head priest of the Gorakhnath Mutt, a Hindu temple in Gorakhpur, following the death of his spiritual “father,” Mahant Avaidyanath in September 2014. He is also the founder of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a social, cultural and nationalist group of youth who seek to provide rightist Hindu platform.
2) Sakshi Maharaj
Sakshi Maharaj,59, is now into his fourth term as a Lok Sabha MP. He was first elected from Mathura in UP in 1991 and then twice from Farrukhabad. Arguably the second most prominent OBC leader from the Lodh community, he left BJP along with Singh in 1999 but returned to the party fold later.The swami holds the title of Acharya Mahamandaleshwar of Nirmal Panchayati Akhada.
3) Niranjan Jyoti
More commonly known as Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti belongs to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). She was appointed the Minister of State for Food Processing Industries in November 2014. She represents the Fatehpur constituency, Uttar Pradesh, in the Lok Sabha, after winning in the 2014 general election. She also represents the Hamirpur constituency in the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly after winning in the 2012 election.
4) Swami Agnivesh
He is an Indian politician who was also a member of legislative assembly in the state of Haryana. A scholar of Arya Samaj, the swami came into prominence due to his contribution in bonded labor in 1980s. He also served at the UN and finally named the president of World council of Arya Samaj, the highest body of the movement. Swami Agnivesh also participated in the famous TV reality show “Bigg Boss”.
5) Uma Bharti
Breaking earlier tradition, Uma Bharti turned Sadhvi after joining politics. Raised by Vijaya Raje Scindia of Gwalior, she became involved with the BJP at a very young age, unsuccessfully contesting her first Parliamentary elections in 1984. In 1989, she successfully contested the Khajuraho seat, and retained it in elections conducted in 1991, 1996 and 1998. In 1999, she switched constituencies and won the Bhopal. She has also been the Chief Minister of MP.
6) Badruddin Ajmal
He is a Member of Parliament from Assam. He established the AIUDF (All India United Democratic Front) which is expected to play role of kingmaker in the coming state elections. He has a degree in Islamic theology from Darul Uloom Deoband. Moulana Ajmal is now a member of the advisory board of Darul Uloom, the prominent and influential Islamic seminary.
Certainly there are other leaders like Sadhvi Ritambhara (not associated to any political party) and Asaduddin Owaisi (not a religious leader) who keep meddling with people’s faith for their own gains. There is a definite pattern and people have to be really smart not to be fooled by leaders with malicious intent of polarizing the country on the name of religion and for political supremacy.