Congress’ former national president Rahul Gandhi on Monday embarked on a spiritual journey to Sikhs’ holiest shrine Golden Temple in Amritsar. His visit was marked by prayers, volunteer service, and an atmosphere of subdued political tensions.
Rahul Gandhi arrived at Amritsar International Airport at 11:15 am. The state party chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, described it as Rahul Gandhi’s “personal” visit, in a tweet, while urging the party workers to respect the national leader’s privacy during this spiritual visit and not be physically present, emphasizing that the visit was a personal, and spiritual one.
Amid a crowd of devotees, Rahul Gandhi was seen offering heartfelt prayers at the sanctum sanctorum of the revered Golden Temple. Following this, he paid a visit to the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikh community, and engaged in ‘sewa’, (voluntary service) by cleaning water bowls used by the temple’s devotees. Rahul Gandhi humbly sat among other devotees, washing utensils as a gesture of devotion.
It is expected that Rahul Gandhi will continue to perform sewa at the shrine and may also participate in the ‘palki sewa’ ritual scheduled for Tuesday morning.
Congress leader Bhagwantpal Singh Sachar had previously shared that Rahul Gandhi would pay his respects at the Darbar Sahib and engage in volunteer activities like washing utensils. Rahul Gandhi has reserved accommodations at a private hotel in close proximity to the Darbar Sahib, with only a single room being reserved at the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) Inn specifically for him. Sachhar clarified that alternative arrangements for Rahul Gandhi's security personnel have been arranged at the private hotel.
Rahul Gandhi's visit to the Golden Temple comes amidst ongoing political disputes between the Congress' state unit and the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) over the arrest of party MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira in a 2015 drug case. Some party leaders have also expressed their opposition to the alliance with AAP for the upcoming 2024 general elections.
The visit also coincides with a period of heightened sensitivity for the Sikh community as allegations of deliberate attempts to spread hate propaganda against Sikhs have arisen amid India-Canada tensions related to the murder of alleged Khalistani extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada.
In contrast to previous visits, Rahul Gandhi plans to stay in Amritsar for an extended period, choosing to spend the night in the holy city. During the day, he immersed himself in gurbani kirtan inside the Darbar Sahib and continued to perform volunteer service in the community kitchen.
Congress leader’s visit to the Golden Temple has been low-key and non-controversial. Having a history of visits to the shrine starting from 2008, he has frequently made personal trips since then. However, his most recent visit in January was considered politically significant as it coincided with his ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ when he wore a kesari turban.