Politicians from all parties pull out their most mystical tricks to secure votes in the election season, be it local village panchayat elections or national polls. Candidates and their supporters leave no stone unturned, resorting to everything from ‘coconut oaths’ to black magic in a bid to sway voters and sabotage opponents. As the Lok Sabha campaign has gained momentum and the State goes for first-phase polls this week, the Maharashtra Superstition Eradication Committee (MSEC) has raised an alarm, calling on the police and election commission to crack down on such bizarre and often illegal practices.

“Luring voters with money and liquor may grab headlines, but the use of superstitious practices by candidates often goes unnoticed,” says Mukta Dabholkar, a member of the MSEC. She highlights the prevalence of these practices, noting that they are now starting to be openly discussed in Maharashtra.

Dabholkar describes a range of superstitious tactics used by politicians, including making voters swear on coconuts and taking oaths at temples. Some even go as far as seeking the help of black magicians, putting pressure on women voters, and using items like black dolls and lemons to curse opponents. These actions violate election codes of conduct and also constitute crimes under anti-superstition laws, Dabholkar explains.

Law and Ground Reality

Ironically, in 2013, Maharashtra became the first State in India to bring in a law banning black magic, witchcraft, and other superstitious practices, but only after the assassination of Narendra Dabholkar, the man who led the fight against such blind faith.

In Maharashtra, some politicians go to extreme lengths to secure votes. They make voters swear oaths in temples, pledging allegiance to a specific candidate and promising not to vote for any other. However, these promises often come with a twist of irony, as seen when a leader asked voters to swear they would not vote for the BJP, only to later join the party himself.

Another prominent leader in the State, formerly with the Congress party, had cultivated a close relationship with a godman, using his influence to sway voters in his favour. Local leaders also rely on the support of local godmen to exert pressure on voters.

Additionally, it’s not uncommon to see lemons pierced with needles placed outside the homes of opposition candidates or at locations where public meetings are held. These practices, while seemingly bizarre, are part of the complex and sometimes unorthodox strategies employed by politicians in Maharashtra to secure electoral success.

The Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) claims that superstition-driven incidents like black magic and witchcraft have been on the rise in Maharashtra ever since the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government assumed office. 

Demand for Action

By associating these practices with voting, politicians aim to influence voters’ decisions based on superstition rather than a rational evaluation of candidates’ policies or capabilities. Superstition plays a significant role in politics by exploiting people’s beliefs and fears to manipulate their voting behaviour. Many politicians often use superstitious practices to create a sense of mystique or divine endorsement around their candidacy, making themselves appear more powerful or connected to higher forces, say anti-superstition activists.

The MSEC has appealed to the election commission and police for immediate action to address these issues and ensure fair and superstition-free elections. The appeal issued by the MSEC has urged voters not to succumb to any superstitious practices and beliefs and to bring such instances to the notice of the police and MSEC members.