On the day when AAP leader and Delhi Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam came under attack over him purportedly being part of a pledge to not worship Hindu deities, his party’s complete silence over the issue was quite revealing.
While AAP did not officially react to the BJP’s allegations, party sources issued a message stating: “Delhi CM and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal is extremely displeased with Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam”.
Later, at 9:30 p.m., the party shared a statement by Mr. Gautam stating that he “respects all Gods and Goddesses equally and cannot even dream of disrespecting any of them”.
A party insider admitted that AAP was in a tough spot over the issue. “On the one hand you have the question of the Hindu identity and on the other, you have an assertion by the Dalit community. We can’t upset either,” the party insider said requesting anonymity. Another source said that the party leadership is counting on the issue blowing over within the next two to three days.
Mr. Kejriwal, during his campaign trail to several poll-bound States, has hailed both Lord Ram and B.R. Ambedkar in an effort to appeal to two different constituencies.
For instance, speaking in the Delhi Assembly during the budget session in March 2021, Mr. Kejriwal said that his government had been working to bring about a “Ram Rajya” in the Capital.
“Lord Ram was the emperor of Ayodhya. During his rule, people were content as they had access to all basic facilities. This was called the ‘Ram Rajya’,” he had said about what he wanted to achieve in the Capital.
He also spoke about how his government had built a 30-foot-high replica of the Ram Temple in Delhi in 2021 where he, along with his party colleagues, offered prayers on Deepavali.
‘Baba Saheb’s dreams’
In the same 2021 budget, his government allocated ₹10 crore to conduct programmes to honour B.R. Ambedkar.
In January, while campaigning for the Assembly polls in Punjab, Mr. Kejriwal said if his party came to power in the State, only photos of Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh would be installed in all government offices. Following AAP’s win in Punjab, photos of the two historic figures were installed in the offices of Punjab and Delhi Secretariats.
In February, the Delhi government organised an over two-hour-long “grand musical” event based on Ambedkar’s life twice a day for two weeks. The AAP chief has said in many speeches that he has been working towards fulfilling “Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s dreams”.
Meanwhile, an AAP source said that Mr. Gautam was likely to face “consequences” for the Wednesday event. In March this year, he was divested of the Department of Women and Child Development following criticism.