Indian polity has known caste, region and religion as traditional vote-banks. But the 2014 elections saw the emergence, or if not emergence then a resurgence, of spirituality as vote-bank! Modi had vociferous support of prominent and popular spiritual gurus of our land - Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Together these two gurus cover the entire spectrum of society as their followers hail from lower strata to the upper elite class. The combined number of their followers runs into millions thus making it a very decisive vote –bank.

The spiritual vote-bank is distinct from the religious vote-banks. Even though both Baba and Sri Sri are Hindu saints, but they are considered spiritual leaders as their programs are for entire society, and not specific to any religion or caste. Baba Ramdev is credited with popularising Yoga in the masses through television and Sri Sri promotes a self-designed Art of Living module of meditation for everyone. The majority followers of Baba Ramdev belong to the rural Hindi heartland and his stronghold is in northern India, as his Aashram is in Haridwar. The followers of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on the other hand, are mostly the suave English speaking populace of metropolitans, his bastion being the Bangaluru aashram. Thus geographically as well as demographically, the spiritual vote-bank could be bigger than other conventional vote-banks. The virtue of devotion and surrender to the Guru’s directives by followers makes the Gurus as one of the most influential opinion leaders. And this makes the spiritual vote-bank as the most reliable one.

In these elections, Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri both did not shy away from publicly recommending Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate and campaigning for him using their network. Baba Ramdev every morning while teaching Yoga would bash Congress party in his irreverent outspoken style and promote Modi as the lone saviour for our country. In a magazine called Yog Sandesh (Yoga’s Message) by Ramdev’s trust, which his followers subscribe to, Baba Ramdev included messages beyond Yoga and did consecutive cover stories on Modi.

Apparently their bonhomie dates back to 2006 when Modi had invited Ramdev to grace a state government function. And their bond today is so strong, that Ramdev is believed to have taken a sankalp (resolve) that he would not go to Haridwar until he ensures Modi’s victory in these elections. And at a Sankalp Poorti Samaroh in Talkatora stadium, all the senior leaders of BJP including Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh, Meenakshi Lekhi likened Baba to Gandhi and JP Narayan as someone who leads the change, but stays away from clutches of power.

Now besides Ramdev, Sri Sri too had directed his team of Art of Living Teachers to do door-to-door campaigning in favour of Modi and BJP.

In his candid blog, Sri Sri Ravishankar speaks about his first encounter with Modi and purports that the riots of Gujarat were a conspiracy to malign the Modi government. To further sanitize Modi’s image, he mentions about how Modi meditates, participates in Satsangs and is a devotee of Maa Durga, the goddess of power and is deeply spiritual. Also a book written by Modi – Saakshibhaav (Being an observer) was launched by Sri Sri where he generously showered praise on him lauding his consistency – saying that those who do attack and criticize will continue to do so, and those who work, will continue to do so!

One might say that in lieu of campaigning support and such testimonials, some Art of Living Teachers, like Maheish Giri for instance, were inducted into BJP and given a ticket as well. Riding on the Modi wave, Maheish Giri won, and many like him won too.

Some feel that Modi used the Gurus for his gains, and some feel conversely that the Gurus will use Modi in future for their gains. It seems a classic case of you scratch my back, I will scratch yours. Whatever that may be, but Modi’s election with a thumping unprecedented majority certainly validates the impact of spiritual votebank.

Now will we see a new trend when the various politicians will flaunt their spiritual connections and if none exist then forge such connections? Will the politicians now seek blessings from Gurus to consequently seek votes from their followers? Will our Gurus now be hailed as king-makers in an election? Will some followers desert the hitherto apolitical Gurus as they become disguised campaigners of politicians?

Will this lead to spiritualisation of our polity or politicisation of our spirituality? Only time will tell!