Row erupts over Gautam’s inclusion as AAP star campaigner. He responds
Rajendra Pal Gautam, who is considered one of AAP’s popular Dalit faces, was attacked by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) last month which accused him of disrespecting Hindu deities at an event, a charge he denied
NEW DELHI: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Friday named 30 party leaders including chief ministers Arvind Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann, former cricketer Harbhajan Singh as well as several ministers in Delhi and Punjab as its star campaigners for the Delhi municipal elections scheduled for December 4.
Former Delhi social welfare minister Rajendra Pal Gautam, who resigned in October after a political controversy broke out over his presence at a religious conversion event, is also among the party’s star campaigners, according to the list seen by HT.
Gautam, who is considered one of AAP’s popular Dalit faces, was attacked by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) last month for disrespecting Hindu deities at the event. The Seemapuri lawmaker had then rebutted the charge, insisting that he hadn’t spoken against anyone’s faith, and accused the BJP of “propaganda”. In his two-page resignation letter, Gautam insisted that he was exiting the Delhi cabinet only to ensure that chief minister Kejriwal doesn’t face any trouble because of him.
The attacks resumed on Friday evening after Gautam’s name figured in the list. On Twitter, the Delhi BJP’s official handle said Gautam’s inclusion had exposed the “anti-Hindu” face of AAP. Manoj Tiwari repeated the charge, adding that "the nomination makes it clear that the words (of Gautam) were not only of Gautam but also of Arvind Kejriwal. Now the people will teach you a lesson (in the polls)."
Gautam hit back, saying the BJP was targeting him for repeating the 22 vows taken by BR Ambedkar at last month’s event along with 10,000 other people.
“The BJP leaders are misrepresenting the vows I took for political purposes. The BJP has not done any work in the last 15 years in the MCD and they have done nothing on the basis of which they can seek votes in the MCD polls,” Gautam said in response to a question by HT.
To be sure, the oath administered at the Ashok Vijaya Dashmi event is one of 22 vows taken by Dr BR Ambedkar when he led thousands of people in converting to Buddhism in October 1956.
The gathering, an annual affair held every October, was organised by two social groups — the Buddhist Society of India and Mission Jai Bheem. The event commemorates the 1956 mass conversion, known as Ashok Vijaya Dashami. Such events are also organised all over the country by anti-caste groups who follow Ambedkar’s teachings.
Gautam wondered what the Delhi BJP leaders had to say about the presence of Maharashtra BJP leaders including deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis at events to commemorate the Dhammachakra Pravartan Day.
The list of star campaigners submitted to the state election commission by AAP includes names of Arvind Kejriwal, deputy CM Manish Sisodia, Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann, Delhi ministers Gopal Rai, Kailash Gahlot, Imran Hussain, Raaj Kumar Anand.
Also on the list are party MPs Sanjay Singh, Sushil Gupta, Raghav Chadha, ND Gupta, Harbhajan Singh, and ministers from Punjab Harpal Singh Cheema, Harjot Singh Bains and Aman Arora. Senior party leaders like Durgesh Pathak, Pankaj Gupta, Dilip Pandey, Atishi, Saurabh Bhardwaj, Adil Ahmed Khan, Somnath Bharti, Rakhi Bidlan, Sanjeev Jha, Jarnail Singh, Kuldeep Kumar, Vishesh Ravi, and Madan Lal also figured in the list.
Voting for the 250-seat municipal corporation is scheduled for December 4 and the results will be out on December 7. The AAP is contesting all the seats and hopes to dethrone the BJP which has been in power in the corporation for 15 years.