Buddhist MPs in 18th Lok Sabha (2024-2029)

The 18th Lok Sabha election was held in 2024. Many Buddhist candidates stood in this Lok Sabha election and some of them also became MPs. Let us know who are the Buddhist MPs in the 18th Lok Sabha.

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Buddhist MPs in the 18th Lok Sabha
Varsha Gaikwad, Kiren Rijiju and Balwant Wankhede

There are some pages available on Wikipedia which list the American MPs [Members of the United States Congress] on the basis of religion (see). But such Wikipedia pages are not made about Indian parliamentarians.

The results of the 18th Lok Sabha elections were declared in June 2024. In this election, candidates were elected as MPs on 543 seats. MPs belonging to different religions reached the Indian Parliament. Most of the MPs are Hindus, followed by Muslim MPs who are second in number. Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain MPs are also in the Parliament. Three Buddhist MPs, whose religious identity is identified, also reached Parliament. Of course, apart from these three, there is a possibility of some unidentified Buddhist MPs as well.

Buddhist Members of Parliament in 18th Lok Sabha

Muslim MPs are easy to spot as their names give away their religious identity. The same is the case with Christians and Sikhs. But this is not the case with Buddhists. Hindu and Buddhist MPs have almost identical names.

More than 45 Buddhist MPs have been elected to the Lok Sabha from 1947 to 2024. This number could be higher as the religious identity of many Buddhist MPs is not identified. 

Hindustan Times has released a religion-wise list of BJP-led NDA and Congress-led INDIA candidates and MPs for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections (see) in a news report. It said that only 0.2% (i.e. one) Buddhist candidates were fielded by both NDA and INDIA alliances. It also showed that the number of elected Buddhist MPs from both NDA and INDIA is 0% (i.e. no one).

But all these statistics are wrong. Let’s know the truth now. 


Buddhist candidates

Buddhist candidates in the 18th Lok Sabha, whose religious identity has been confirmed.


  • Shiv Sena – Yamini Jadhav (Mumbai South, Maharashtra)
  • BJP – Sudhakar Shringare (Latur (SC), Maharashtra)
  • BJP – Kiren Rijiju (West Arunachal)
  • BJP – Tashi Gyalson (Ladakh)



  • Congress – Varsha Gaikwad (Mumbai North Central)
  • Congress – Balwant Wankhede (Amravati (SC), Maharashtra)
  • Congress – Tsering Namgyal (Ladakh)
  • SP – Nawal Shakya (Farrukhabad, UP)


0.7% (i.e. 4) Buddhist candidates were fielded by both NDA and INDIA. Out of these 8 candidates only 3 became MPs.

For Ladakh seat both Congress and BJP fielded Buddhist candidates, due to which Buddhist votes got divided and an independent Muslim candidate was elected as MP.

Adv. Prakash Ambedkar, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s grandson and president of Vanchit Bahujan Aaghadi, stood on his own from Akola seat in Maharashtra but lost. If he had joined Mahavikas Aghadi (INDIA), he would definitely have won and there would have been another Buddhist MP in the Lok Sabha.


Buddhist MPs (2024-29)

There are three Buddhist members of Parliament (MPs) in the 18th Lok Sabha, and all three have their religious identity verified. Of course, there are likely to be some unknown Buddhist MPs apart from these three.

List of the Buddhist MPs in the 18th Lok Sabha (2024–2029) : 

  • BJP – Kiren Rijiju (West Arunachal)
  • Congress – Varsha Gaikwad (North Centre Mumbai)
  • Congress – Balwant Wankhede (Amravati (SC))

Kiren Rijiju has been elected to the Lok Sabha for the fourth time, and is currently a Union Cabinet Minister. While, Gaikwad and Wankhede are first-time MPs.

The NDA has 0.2% (i.e. 1) Buddhist MPs in the 18th Lok Sabha, and the INDIA has 0.4% (i.e. 2).


Let us know briefly about the sitting Buddhist MPs

Kiren Rijiju 

Kiren Rijiju is an Indian politician serving as the 28th Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and 7th Minister of Minority Affairs in the Government of India since June 2024. This is the first time a Buddhist has become the head of the Ministry of Minority Affairs.

Rijiju was born on 19 November 1971 in a Buddhist family in Nakhu near Nafra in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh. He has been elected to Parliament four times (in 2004, 2014, 2019 and 2024) from West Arunachal Lok Sabha constituency.

Kiren Rijiju has served as a minister in the Central Government seven times; in which he was a Cabinet Minister four times and a Minister of State three times.


Varsha Gaikwad

Professor Varsha Eknath Gaikwad is the president of the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee. She won the North Central Mumbai seat in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

She defeated BJP candidate and senior lawyer Ujjwal Nikam by 16,514 votes. The North Central Mumbai seat was held by the BJP for the last ten years, but this time the Congress won.

Varsha Gaikwad was an MLA at the time of the election and was elected to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly four times in a row [2004, 2009, 2014 and 2019] from Mumbai’s Dharavi seat.

Varsha Gaikwad is the only Scheduled Caste candidate from Maharashtra who became an MP from a general seat. Her father Eknath Gaikwad was also elected to the Lok Sabha from the same constituency in 2004. 

Buddhist candidates like Gopal Mane, candidate of Dr. Ambedkar’s Scheduled Castes Federation in 1957, and Ramdas Athawale, candidate of the Republican Party of India in 1998, have also gone to Parliament from this constituency.


Balwant Wankhede

The Amravati seat was contested between the then sitting MP Navneet Kaur Rana and then sitting MLA Balwant Baswant Wankhede. Congressman Wankhede defeated BJP candidate Navneet Rana by 19,731 votes.

MP Balwant Wankhede is a follower of Buddhism. He was a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly from Dariyapur (2019-2024). His political career has been as a gram panchayat member, sarpanch, Chairman of Amravati District Council, then MLA and now MP.

Amravati Lok Sabha constituency is reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC). Navneet Kaur Rana belongs to the ‘Mochi/Chamar’ caste and Sikh or Hindu religion. Balwant Wankhede belongs to the ‘Mahar’ caste and Buddhist religion.


Non-Buddhist MPs

Many MPs, especially Dalit MPs, are considered ‘Buddhists’ but are not actually Buddhists.

Non-Buddhist MPs, whose religious identity is identified :

  • ASP(KR) – Chandrasekhar Azad (Nagina, Uttar Pradesh)
  • VCK – Thol. Thirumavalavan (Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu)

Chandrashekhar Azad, the only MP who said Namo Buddhay while taking oath in the Lok Sabha, is not a ‘Buddhist’ but an irreligious one. He is a young Dalit leader, Bhim Army Chief and President of Azad Samaj Party (Kanshi Ram). In an interview on 16 September 2018, Chandrasekhar Azad said, “I am an atheist and don’t believe in religion.” (Reference)

Tamil Nadu Dalit leader and President of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, Thol. Thirumavalavan has said in an interview that he believes in Christianity. (Reference)


MPs, who may be Buddhists

There are also some MPs in the 2024 Lok Sabha who are considered Buddhists, although their religious identity is unidentified. Few of these may be Buddhists and few non-Buddhists.

  • Congress – Radhakrishna (Gulbarga, Karnataka), Mallikarjun Kharge’s son-in-law
  • VCK – Ravikumar (Villupuram, Tamil Nadu)
  • BJP – Arjun Ram Meghwal (Bikaner, Rajasthan)
  • SP – R. K. Choudhary (Mohanlalganj, UP)
  • Congress – Sashikant Senthil (Tiruvallur, Tamil Nadu)
  • BJP – Tapir Gao (East Arunachal)
  • AD(S) – Anupriya Patel (Mirzapur, UP)
  • Congress – Sanjana Jatav (Bharatpur, Rajasthan)
  • Congress – Bhajan Lal Jatav (Karauli-Dholpur, Rajasthan)


Rahul Gandhi also follows Buddhism but he has not described himself as a ‘Buddhist’. This may be because it is a very personal matter for him or he does not see any political benefit in it. His sister Priyanka Gandhi also follows Buddhist philosophy. But she too, like her brother, does not call herself a Buddhist.


Buddhist MPs in 17th Lok Sabha

In the 17th Lok Sabha (2019–2024), Buddhist MPs were five or 0.9%.

  • BJP – Srinivasa Prasad, Chamarajanagar (SC), Karnataka
  • BJP – Sudhakar Shringare, Latur (SC), Maharashtra
  • BJP – Kiren Rijiju, West Arunachal
  • BJP – Jamyang Namgyal, Ladakh
  • SP – Sanghmitra Maurya – Badaun, Uttar Pradesh
Buddhist MPs in the Rajya Sabha
Buddhist MPs in the Rajya Sabha – Ramdas Athawale, Mallikarjun Kharge and Chandrakant Handore

Sitting Buddhist MPs in Rajya Sabha

There are three Buddhist MPs in Rajya Sabha – Mallikarjun Kharge, Ramdas Athawale and Chandrakant Handore. All three MPs belong to Scheduled Caste.

Kharge is the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and the National President of Congress Party. Handor is also a Congress leader from Maharashtra. Athawale is the President of Republican Party of India (A) and current Minister of State in the Central Government.

Like Lok Sabha, in Rajya Sabha too, two MPs of INDIA and one MP of NDA are Buddhists.

Kind regards: If you know of any other current Buddhist MP/MPs, please let us know. Along with the names of Buddhist MPs, it is important to give a reference so that their religious identity is clear. Contact – Email 

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