New Delhi: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) minister Rajendra Pal Gautam, who was at the centre of a political controversy for participating in an event in which a large gathering purportedly took oath denouncing Hindu deities and embraced Buddhism, resigned from his ministerial post Sunday.
आज महर्षि वाल्मीकि जी का प्रकटोत्सव दिवस है एवं दूसरी ओर मान्यवर कांशीराम साहेब की पुण्यतिथि भी है। ऐसे संयोग में आज मैं कई बंधनों से मुक्त हुआ और आज मेरा नया जन्म हुआ है। अब मैं और अधिक मज़बूती से समाज पर होने वाले अत्याचारों व अधिकारों की लड़ाई को बिना किसी बंधन के जारी रखूँगा pic.twitter.com/buwnHYVgG8
— Rajendra Pal Gautam (@AdvRajendraPal) October 9, 2022
Gautam holds the social welfare and SC/ST welfare portfolios in the Delhi government.
In his resignation letter, which 54-year-old Gautam shared on Twitter, he wrote he had been “hurt” by the way the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been “targeting” the AAP and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal over the issue. He also mentioned having received threats over phone but did not share specific details.
The Delhi social welfare minister was caught in a video attending a religious conversion programme at Ambedkar Bhavan in central Delhi’s Karol Bagh which was attended by hundreds of Hindus – mostly from the Dalit community — on 5 October. Gautam was on stage as attendees purportedly denounced deities like Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, Rama, Krishna, Gauri and Ganpati.
The BJP has trained guns at the AAP over Gautam’s presence in the event, accusing the AAP of hurting religious sentiments of Hindus.
The incident, two senior AAP leaders told ThePrint, had put the party in a tight spot, specially before the Gujarat polls. The AAP does not want to get into the space of caste politics and sees electoral benefits in sticking to its core strategy of highlighting the Delhi governance model that primarily revolves around development and welfare.
The AAP has so far not issued an official statement in connection with the matter.
On Friday, the BJP made political capital of the video footage with Member of Parliament Manoj Tiwari calling the event an organised attempt to spread riots. He said: “Buddhists are non-violent people, but what the AAP minister is doing is an attempt to spread hatred in the community.”
इतना हिंदू विरोधी क्यों है AAP ? हिंदू धर्म के ख़िलाफ़ शपथ ले भी रहे है और दिला भी रहे है ये aap के मंत्री #HinduVirodhikejriwal pic.twitter.com/uGeph1m9q6
— Manoj Tiwari ?? (@ManojTiwariMP) October 7, 2022
BJP’s national spokesperson Gautam Bhatia said: “His (Gautam’s) comments highlight the hate which the AAP has towards Hindus.”
Gautam hit back, saying there was nothing wrong if he believed in Hinduism. “The Constitution of India gives us the freedom to follow any religion. The BJP is losing ground and it is afraid of the Aam Aadmi Party,” he said
He later lowered his tone and said: “I am a deeply religious person. I personally respect all gods and goddesses and would not even dream of insulting any deity through any action or word of mine.”
The minister said he had raised the issues of education, health, employment, price rise and social equality in his speech at the event, but BJP leaders were spreading “rumours” against him.
“I am deeply hurt by this mischief and seek an apology with folded hands from anyone who has been hurt in any way due to such propaganda by the BJP,” he said in the statement.
In his resignation letter Sunday, Gautam said he participated in the 5 October event in “personal capacity”. “However, the BJP has been targeting the AAP and our leader Arvind Kejriwal in connection with the matter and that hurts me. I have deep respect for Mr Arvind Kejriwal and I shall always be grateful to him. His politics that focuses on education, healthcare, power, water, employment, women security, etc tends to take forward B.R. Ambedkar’s larger vision.”
“BJP clearly seems to have a problem with the 22 Ambedkarite vows. They are using that to propagate their dirty politics, which has hurt me and forced me to tender my resignation… I have also been receiving threats over the phone for the past few days. But I am not scared. I will continue fighting for my community,” he wrote.
Also read: Under fire, AAP minister Rajendra Pal calls himself ‘deeply religious’, slams BJP