Row over AAP minister Rajendra Pals’s presence at ‘religious conversion’ event; BJP asks Kejriwal to sack him


PTI, Oct 8, 2022, 11:24 AM IST

Credit: ET

AAP minister Rajendra Pal Gautam found himself in the middle of a controversy on Friday after a video purportedly showed him attending an event where hundreds are heard taking a pledge to convert to Buddhism while denouncing Hindu deities.

As the video went viral on Friday, the BJP launched an attack on Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, asking him to sack Gautam, who responded by saying he was a ”deeply religious person and would not even dream of insulting any deity through any action or word of mine”.

There was no official reaction either from the Aam Aadmi Party or the Delhi government, but sources in the AAP claimed the chief minister was ”extremely displeased” with Gautam, the social welfare minister.

In a statement, Gautam accused the BJP of spreading rumours and propaganda and sought ”apology with folded hands from all those who have been hurt in any way by this propaganda by the BJP.” At a press conference, BJP national spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia accused the AAP of hurting the sentiments of Hindus.

During the programme on October 5, the day of Dussehra, around 10,000 people purportedly took vows to convert to Buddhism, follow Lord Buddha’s teachings and give up worship of Hindu deities.

On that day, Gautam himself had tweeted pictures of the event, saying more than 10,000 people pledged to join Buddhism and work for making India free from casteism and untouchability.

In the purported video that went viral four days since the event, Gautam can be seen sharing the dias with other persons attending the programme. He could also been seen standing in the pledge gesture.

The pledge was: ”I will never hold Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh as gods and worship them. I will neither hold Ram and Krishna as God nor worship them ever. I will not believe in or worship Gauri, Ganapti or any other deity of the Hindu religion.” At the press conference, Bhatia said, ”Gautam’s comments highlight the hate the party has for the community”.

Bhatia claimed the minister’s alleged ”comments were made at the behest of Kejriwal”.

Responding to allegations, the social welfare minister said he did not hurt anyone’s religious sentiments.

”They (BJP) are wrong. No one said a word against the gods and goddesses of any religion or anything that hurts anyone’s religious sentiments. When people embrace Buddhism, they take these 22 vows. This a personal matter of those who follow Buddhism. Why should anyone be bothered about it?,” Gautam told Times Now.

He said that such religious functions are held publicly everyday.

”Which religion doesn’t do that? Why object to the followers of Buddhism for doing so. We have faith in Buddhism. Buddhist Society of India promotes the ideas of Ambedkar every year,” the AAP minister told the new channel further.

Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta led a party delegation on Friday to file a complaint with the police here in the matter.

Gupta said this is not an isolated incident. ”It is in the character of the AAP to insult and disrespect Hindu gods and goddesses.” He demanded Kejriwal should immediately expel Gautam from his cabinet.

BJP MP Manoj Tiwari also demanded Gautam’s sacking, claiming his action could lead to animosity between Hindu and Buddhist communities.

Hitting out at Gautam, West Delhi MP Parvesh Verma accused him of indulging in ”mass religious conversion”.

”Every day news of conversions comes from AAP-ruled Punjab. Similarly, Kejriwal’s minister Rajendra Pal is now conducting a mass conversion of people in Delhi,” Verma said in a tweet.

Bhatia said the AAP leader’s actions were driven by ”vote bank” politics in light of the coming elections. ”How low will you stoop for votes, Kejriwal,” he asked.

Bhatia said every Hindu has faith in their gods and claimed the minister’s ”comments are a blow to national integrity”.

The Vishva Hindu Parishad also slammed Gautam and demanded his sacking.

The RSS-affiliate urged the Delhi Police and Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena to take ”strictest action” against Gautam, alleging that administering of oaths to people at the event attended by the minister hurt the sentiments of Hindus.

The VHP also targeted Kejriwal and demanded an apology from him, alleging that his minister’s participation in the event has exposed his ”hypocrisy”. Gautam, in his statement issued late in the day, said he learnt through the media that the BJP was spreading ”rumours” against him.

”I am a deeply religious person. I personally respect all the gods and the goddesses and would not even dream of insulting any deity through any action or word of mine,” he said in his statement in Hindi.

The minister said he raised the issues of education, health, employment, price rise and social equality in his speech at the event but the BJP leaders were spreading ”rumour” against him.

”I am deeply hurt by this mischief of BJP leaders and seek apology with folded hands from all those who have been, in any way, hurt by this propaganda by the BJP,” he said.

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