I have seen a lot of politicians invoking religion while campaigning for elections in India. They usually drive up an "us vs them" mob mentality. While I feel that this is ethically wrong, is this allowed? Can politicians use religion for canvassing given that India is a "secular" country?

1. The preamble to the constitution says that India is "secular".

 `WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India 
 to all its citizens JUSTICE, social, economic and political;  
 LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;   
 EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among ...`
  1. Mayawati wants only Muslim votes: Yogi

2 Answers 2


The edict of separation of Religion and State is normally understood to mean:

  • that the government won't profess any religion or impose any religion upon the citizenry
  • that no religious organization is given any special influence or lattitude on the affairs of government

However, Article 19 protects the rights of politicians to base their campaignss on whatever topics they like with the obvious exceptions of sedition or otherwise inciting violence. This means that not only can they preach (a) religion as part of their platform, they can even state that they will themselves base their decisions on religious dogma and/or philosophy.

As long as there are no legally binding arrangements between any religion (or specific religious institution) and the government, these invokations are allowed and even protected as a right (free speech).


In consonance with the secular spirit of India, the Model Code of Conduct explicitly states that -

No party or candidate shall include in any activity which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic.

There shall be no appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes. Mosques, Churches, Temples or other places of worship shall not be used as forum for election propaganda.

The Model Code of Conduct doesn't have a statutory basis but is based upon consensus among the contesting parties. The Election Commission of India is responsible for the administration of the Code.

The events like the ones pointed out above are duly taken care of by the Commission and must be brought to its notice.

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