Call it a year of New Age Politics, if you dare to! Amidst tumultuous events, Indian polity quietly took a spiritual turn in 2015. From adopt-a-village plan to making "neem-coating" mandatory for urea to pushing for International Day of Yoga, Modi sarkar proudly wore its spiritual leanings on its sleeves.
The final confirmation for the emerging era of "coalition" in Indian politics came courtesy a duet in the Twitterati between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and renowned spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar this week. "Delighted to meet @srisri ji. Conversations with him are always insightful," tweeted the prime minister soon after their recent meeting in New Delhi. Pat came the tweet from Sri Sri.
"PM Modi's contribution in the international arena is remarkable. His vision and passion to uplift every section of society should be emulated."
More than the tone of mutual admiration, it's the coming together of two seemingly opposite realms of politics and spirituality that makes it significant for India. Spirituality brings integrity, dedication, fullness and depth - the characters most needed for good governance. The emerging proximity between a purveyor of spirituality and a ruler with spiritual bent can become the catalyst for the must-needed reforms in Indian polity.
Caught in the political compulsion of being "secularly correct", India's ruling class shied away from anything spiritual in the last few years. They were so misguided that they considered even breaking bread with a spiritual leader a political suicide!
Under Modi, there seems to be a deliberate effort to create a third space for non-official players to help reduce trust deficit. This augurs well for the country. At a time when society is polarised on the lines of political ideologies and religions and moral values are denigrating, politically neutral leaders can help reduce the trust deficit and act as the balancing force between the Left and Right of the Indian polity. On that account, the Modi government's efforts to engage spiritual leaders in matters of governance is a welcome sign.
Be it trying to engage the militant groups in the North East or Naxal leaders or meeting up Pakistani High Commissioner, Sri Sri is often seen keen to help governments thaw political deadlocks. Also his continuous efforts in educating the political class about short shortsightedness in policy-making and pitfalls of succumbing to vote bank politics will come in handy in setting the tone for a constructive political mileau. His push for spiritualizing politics, socializing business and secularizing religion can play a guiding role in realising Modi's credo of Sab ka Sath, Sab ka Vikas.
Spirituality used to be a vital aspect of governance in ancient India with pious kings regularly turning to their raja gurus (spiritual guides) to seek guidance on matters of administration. Even in the recent past, powerful prime ministers like Indira Gandhi and Narasimha Rao had spiritual advisors though some of them might have acted more like power-brokers than a raja guru.
When there is no spirituality, the government and leaders tend to become communal. Rightly, Sri Sri once said, "When spirituality and politics don't go hand in hand, then we have corrupt politicians and pseudo-religious leaders." And, this is exactly what has happened in India in the last few years which witnessed appeasement and polarization, instead of a focus on policies that uplift every citizen irrespective of caste, creed, region or religion.
Like spirituality, the essence of politics is to care for people and their welfare. It's a given that truly spiritual people live the values which are absolutely essential for those in governance. Sri Sri firmly believes that spirituality alone can make a leader samadarshi, one who sees everyone as being equal; satyadarshi, who moves with the Truth; paradarshi, who is transparent in action; doordarshi, being farsighted; and priyadarshi, embodying love and compassion.
The political class can take heart from the fact that it's his spiritual bent that has effectively transformed Modi from being a political pariah to an international icon. He rocked the US and Japan, impressed Obama and captured the imagination of the Generation Next not with his 56-inch chest image, but with his spiritual appeal. He has played the spiritual card by focussing on ideals like Vasudaiva Kutumbakam and Vedantic wisdom.
In the short span of his prime ministership, Modi has shown enough indications that he intends to leverage India's spiritual wealth as a powerful diplomatic tool. He has already won a battle for India by getting the United Nations declare June 21 as International Yoga Day. India's long tradition of spirituality and its impeccable track record of uniting people is a ray of hope for the beleaguered world today. However, this hasn't been effectively purveyed so far. On the strength of her spiritual prowess, India can shape a new world order.
Even at home, spirituality can be harnessed as solutions to many of India's woes. If the politics is played in the spirit of spirituality, major problems like Naxalism and terrorism can be rooted out in no time, that too without using any force. There will be no room for rabble-rousing over a Uniform Civil Code.
Under the Modi regime, there is a new hope that spiritual leaders will get a more proactive role in instilling values in politics and political leaders will promote the universal spiritual code of co-existence. Tathastu!