14:23 GMT20 April 2021
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    As four Indian states and a union territory gear up for Assembly elections by the end of month, political parties are hurling accusations of playing the religion card to attract votes in the forthcoming elections.

    Top political leaders, hitting the campaign trail in the states which are gearing up for elections, are making a beeline for the temples, Muslim shrines and other religious places accompanied by large crowds of local people. 

    Voting for Assembly seats is scheduled to be held in the states of Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and the union territory of Puducherry from 27 March to 29 April. Election results will be declared on 2 May. 

    If scenes of recent electioneering are anything to go by, then being photographed at places of worship with head bowed and hands folded has become an important strategy when campaigning.

    West Bengal chief Mamata Banerjee has set a record of sorts after visiting no fewer than 19 temples and one Muslim shrine in her constituency in two days last week before she succumbed to a foot injury. 

    ​The fact that she was returning after a visit to a temple when she hurt her foot has also prompted people have a dig at her. 

    The federal government home minister and BJP leader Amit Shah offered prayers at Suchindram Temple in Kanyakumari city, Tamil Nadu state during his visit ahead of state Assembly polls. During his visit to the state of West Bengal, in December last year, his first stop was the Ramakrishna Mission and Siddheswari Kali temple in Midnapore city. 

    Congress party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra chose to take a dip in the Triveni Sangam - the point where the Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers all meet - while visiting Uttar Pradesh state’s Allahabad city last month. She also visited the Mankameshwar Temple in the city and met Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, a prominent religious leader.

    While electioneering in Assam, Priyanka Gandhi offered prayers at Kamakhya temple. 

    Delhi Chief Arvind Kejriwal announced on Sunday that his Aam Aadmi Party government would take senior citizens on a free trip to Ram Temple in Uttar Pradesh's Ayodhya city. He added that as well as travel, food, and accommodation will be covered by the Delhi government. 

    However, the temple-hopping antics of politicians have not impressed spiritual leaders who consider it hypocritical. 

    “It is a sham, politicians offering prayers in religious places. It is just an attempt to target communities on religious grounds to get votes. It is all a political strategy. Why don’t they pray in private, behind closed doors? They want to be seen in religious places publicly,” Acharya Somdutta of Arya Samaj, a spiritual outfit, told Sputnik. 

    And the hugely popular spiritual leader, Sadhguru, said in a recent interview with a TV channel: “Temple going by politicians has nothing to do with the Hindu way of life. They are just trying every trick possible to get the maximum number of votes. It is just pure politics".

    “Instead of saying what they will do they are just trying to show how they are. I don't care who you are but only what you will do if elected to power. Every citizen must ask what will you do if I give you my vote,” the spiritual leader added. 

    Netizens are also dripping with sarcasm at the heightened spiritual posturing of politicians at a time of elections.

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