There is a tendency in our times to regard with distaste the discussion of religious issues in Elections (Ram Mandir or Triple Talaq for instance)

The argument goes - Elections should be fought over primarily issues of "Development" (Vikas)

But this view is problematic
Until the rise of the Welfare state in early 20th century, Elections the world over were fought over religious and constitutional issues!

Religion and Ireland were the major issues that dominated the Parliament in UK throughout 19th century
Here's the great historian Robert Blake in his wonderful book - "The Conservative Party - From Peel to Churchill"

"In modern times,the great issues have been economic and social. But in those days (19th cen), they were religious and constitutional"
As per him -

"The first parliament in which economic issues were dominant was that of 1900"
"Despite Peel's budgets and the struggle over corn laws, even the parliament of 1841 was more concerned with religion than economics"
One classic example of a religious issue in 1840s that brought down govt was the issue of Appropriation of the revenues of the "Church of Ireland" - the representative of the Anglican church in Catholic Ireland (which was then part of the Union).
The Whigs (predecessors of the Liberal Party) were in favor of appropriating the surplus revenue of the Church for lay purposes

The Conservatives were strongly opposed

In Blake's words, this was a religious issue linked to a constitutional question of how to deal with Ireland
The Whigs felt that the best way to preserve the Union was to make concessions to the Catholic majority

While the Conservatives felt that weakening the Protestant establishment (as represented by the Church of Ireland) would weaken the Union
This reminds us of so many debates in our times....

How do we preserve the Indian Union? By pandering to regional aspirations and egos? Or by enforcing a stronger more robust "national" culture?

As we can see, the politics of 1840s were also about similar debates
The issue of appropriation, as per Blake, brought down the Whig govt of Lord Russell in 1934 and again Peel's govt in 1835...

10 years later there was yet another religious issue that was key in the 1846 election - the Maynooth Grant
This was a decision by the Conservative Peel govt who angered his Anglican core support base, by increasing an annual grant instituted in the 1790s by the British govt to a Catholic seminary in Maynooth in Ireland
Along with the corn law repeal, this issue was key in bringing Peel's career in the Conservative Party to a close!
In 1829 the big political issue in UK was around the Catholic emancipation bill promulgated again uncharacteristically by a Conservative Govt

Until then Roman Catholic Church members could not sit in the UK parliament
Even Jewish members who did win elections were expected to take the "Christian Oath of Allegiance" to sit in the Parliament..

This meant that the first Jewish MP to be elected - Lionel de Rotschild in 1847, could not take office till 1858 - when the Jewish relief Act was passed
The purpose of recounting these long forgotten events from British history is to show that "Economy" or Vikaas was hardly the predominant issues on anyone's mind in 19th century UK - when it was having its great Industrial revolution
Economy was in the private sphere.....People felt that the country would "grow" if its citizenry were virtuous and industrious enough...

Govt was hardly obligated to ensure "growth"

The real issues that interested and animated politics were religious and constitutional
Issues like - What should be the rights of Catholics? What should be the rights of Jews? How to deal with the Catholic church adherents in Ireland?

How to preserve the Union with Ireland?
Economic management among other things became important only after Chamberlain brought up the issue of tarrifs to boost economy in early 1900s.

And they became even more important after the great Liberal victory of 1906 following which many welfare schemes were instituted
So when Indians discuss Ram Mandir or Triple Talaq or Cow slaughter in election time, there is no need to feel apologetic or ashamed about it...

This is what politics is about...About debating what constitutes a "Good life".

Politics is not merely about "Vikaas"
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