Though the messages conveyed are not direct or intense, those in authority in these religious institutions often send across a subtle message asking the community to “choose a leader who carries the potential of fulfilling the aspirations of our community”.
“Our priest has never asked us to vote for any particular party or candidate. But he did ask us to keep a few things in mind while choosing our representative, such as the fate of our community for the next five years, the candidate’s rapport with our community, his or her contribution to our community and the untoward incidents in the last few years in this constituency,” said Christine, a voter from Mangaluru City North constituency.
Vivek Shetty, a doctor, said though he hasn’t encountered any incident with a political tone in temples he has visited, politics is certainly discussed during community programmes undertaken by a friend’s family.
“A lot of politics is discussed at these community programmes. We are Bunts and we prioritize a candidate from our community more than any political party. A certain party has fielded candidates taking this into account,” he said, adding, “This has certainly been playing on our minds.” The Sunni Uluma leaders, on the other hand, have been openly asking community members to cast their vote for a party, and not a candidate, that is secular.
“In the current political system, it has become necessary for religious leaders, along with the common man, to discuss politics. The multicultural Indian values have been diluted by a few communal forces. To ensure there is no hung assembly so that communal elements get a chance to form the government or to ensure that a party with a communal agenda doesn’t get power, it’s necessary that we all vote for a party that will preserve the secular fabric of the country,” read a message on social media from Aboobakar Siddiq, national secretary, Sunni Students’ Federation.
Given the charged political environment, these messages by religious and community groups could play a major role in people deciding how they vote.