Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal cleaned utensils at a community kitchen as he and other Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders performed ‘sewa’ (voluntary religious service) inside the Golden Temple complex here on Monday.
Accompanied by senior party leaders, including Ashish Khetan, lawyer H.S.Phoolka, AAP MPs Bhagwant Mann and Sadhu Singh, actors and AAP members Gul Panag and Gurpreet Ghuggi and others, Kejriwal arrived at the Golden Temple complex, where the holiest of Sikh shrines ‘Harmandar Sahib’ is situated.
The move by Kejriwal to come here was to seek forgiveness for AAP’s political gaffe after the party’s ‘Youth manifesto’ carried a picture of ‘Harmandar Sahib’, popularly known as the Golden Temple, along with AAP election symbol of ‘broom.’
“While releasing the ‘Youth Manifesto’ of the party, we had committed some mistakes unintentionally. To seek forgiveness, we have done sewa at Darbar Sahib,” Kejriwal, who remained inside the shrine complex for nearly one hour, told media after performing service at the shrine.
Sporting a white handkerchief to cover his head and with folded hands, Kejriwal went around the shrine complex, offered prayers and later cleaned utensils at the ‘Langar’ hall, the community kitchen which serves food to over one lakh people in a single day.
Kejriwal and others also partook of langar (community food).
The AAP and Kejriwal faced criticism from the Sikh community, Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and radical Sikh organizations for the goof-up. Protests were held against the AAP.
This was Kejriwal’s second visit to the Sikh shrine within 15 days. He had begun his three-day Punjab tour on July 3 by offering prayers at the same shrine. It was immediately after his visit that Kejriwal released the party’s controversial ‘Youth manifesto’ here, 250 km from Chandigarh.
AAP leader Ashish Khetan was also booked by the Punjab Police on the charge of hurting religious sentiments of the Sikhs by equating the manifesto with Guru Granth Sahib, the Bible, and the Gita. Apologies by Khetan and the AAP over both controversies were rejected by the Akali Dal, opposition Congress, and the SGPC.
The AAP gaffe gave political fodder to the Akali Dal, Congress, and others to corner the party just months ahead of assembly elections in Punjab which are likely to be held in February next year. The AAP is posting the serious challenge to both parties in Punjab.
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his deputy and son Sukhbir Singh Badal had accused the AAP leaders of “hurting the religious sentiments of the Sikhs” through their actions.
The Chief Minister had said the “atrocious act” of displaying a picture of the temple on the cover of the AAP ‘Youth manifesto’, along with a picture of the broom was “blasphemy.”
Akali Dal President Sukhbir Badal too said that the AAP and its leadership was a “bunch of outsiders who don’t have any inkling of the culture and traditions of Punjab.”
Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh had questioned Kejriwal for seeking forgiveness 15 days after committing the mistake.