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Under fire for ‘conversion’ event, Delhi minister Rajendra Pal Gautam resigns

The event had come under fire from the BJP, which alleged that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his party “hated” Hindus. It had also demanded Gautam’s resignation.

The BJP had demanded Gautam’s resignation after the video emerged. The AAP and the Delhi government had not reacted to the event or the BJP’s demands, but party sources had said that Kejriwal was “angry” with Gautam. (Express photo)

TWO DAYS after a purported video clip surfaced of him attending a religious conversion event, Delhi Social Welfare Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam resigned on Sunday.

On Friday, BJP leaders had shared a purported video clip of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) minister at an event where thousands were reported to have converted to Buddhism. Repeating the 22 vows that B R Ambedkar took while converting to Buddhism in 1956, the crowd reportedly pledged to not consider Hindu deities as gods.

The event had come under fire from the BJP, which alleged that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his party “hated” Hindus. It had also demanded Gautam’s resignation.

In his resignation letter, which he posted on Twitter on Sunday afternoon, Gautam wrote: “I had joined the programme at Ambedkar Bhawan on October 5 in my personal capacity. It had nothing to do with AAP or being a minister. BJP’s former minister of social justice had got Babasaheb’s 22 vows printed in the 17th volume of Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches. These are repeated across the country every year by crores of people at different events. BJP is opposed to Babasaheb and his 22 vows and is using this for dirty politics. I am resigning from my post as a minister because of that… I don’t want my leader Arvind Kejriwal and AAP to suffer because of me… Some people with Manuvaadi views are threatening me and my family. I will not be scared.” He signed off the letter with “Namo Buddhaya and Jai Bhim”.

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“Today is Valmiki Jayanti and also Kanshiram Sahib’s death anniversary. Today, I am being freed of many shackles and I have been reborn. Now, my fight against wrongdoing in society will get stronger and I will continue the fight for rights without any shackles,” he tweeted.

Speaking to news channels on the video clip on Friday afternoon, Gautam had said: “Does the BJP have any other issue to speak about? It wants to create disharmony among people in the name of caste and religion… People are using only parts of the video. This was not a political programme, it was an event organised by the Buddhist Society of India, which was founded by Babasaheb Ambedkar. This has happened every year since 1956… One should read the 22 vows properly. No one has made any anti-Hindu comments.”

In a statement that evening, Gautam had said he “respects all gods and goddesses and cannot even imagine disrespecting them through my work or speech”. Blaming the BJP for “false propaganda”, he apologised to people who were hurt by it.

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The row comes amid the AAP’s election campaign in Gujarat, where the party has been reaching out to Dalits. The party’s office and Kejriwal’s residence, as well as the offices of ministers in Kejriwal’s cabinet have portraits of Ambedkar on the walls, and the party has called Ambedkar its idol several times, even organising a play on his life earlier this year.

However, according to AAP leaders, discomfort in the party over Gautam sharing the stage at a conversion event was evident since Friday. While Gautam attacked the BJP for creating a controversy, Kejriwal and the party remained silent, with sources saying that Kejriwal was “angry” with Gautam.

On Saturday, when Kejriwal went to Dahod in Gujarat to campaign ahead of the assembly polls, posters calling him and AAP anti-Hindu were put up at several places.

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Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju had also attacked the party. “I really don’t understand the reason as to why Arvind Kejriwal and his gang hate Hindu and Hindutva so much? I can understand about Rahul Gandhi but Arvind Kejriwal… Every Indian should follow the mantra of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas and Sabka Prayas,” he had tweeted.

On Sunday, BJP MP Manoj Tiwari alleged that the conversion event was Kejriwal’s plan. Now that the plan has failed and the pawn has resigned, he (Kejriwal) should resign too, he said.

“This is the victory of Hindus. This is a victory for the issue that was raised by the BJP. Kejriwal visits temples in Gujarat but the hidden agenda is to spread hatred. Only resigning is not enough, he should also apologise along with Kejriwal,” said BJP’s Delhi president, Adesh Gupta.

First published on: 09-10-2022 at 18:22 IST
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