ONE of the proposals that came up when the M.N. Venkatachaliah Commission on Constitutional Review was set up by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in 2000 was to include “spiritualism” in the preamble of the Constitution. Although the stated premise for the proposal, made by a group of Hindu sanyasins of Karnataka, was that this “would help arrest moral degradation in society”, its larger political import became part of the discussions among observers of the Commission. It was pointed out during the discussions that the acceptance of the proposal could impart a kind of legitimacy to the relationship and association that the political class, especially those who have attained positions of power, have with the so-called spiritual gurus. Perhaps realising the dangers awarding such legitimacy would pose to the fundamental tenets of the Constitution, the proposal did not become part of the recommendations of the Commission. However, it did bring into focus the nexus between spiritual leaders and the political leadership that has existed in different forms in independent India.
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