Modi skips Anandpur Sahib event; Shah, Rajnath to attend

Chandigarh (IANS): Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not be attending the 350th anniversary of the foundation of Sikh holy town of Anandpur Sahib on June 19, but union Home minister Rajnath Singh and BJP president Amit Shah will be present, the BJP announced on Tuesday.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Punjab unit president Kamal Sharma said in a statement that he had met the home minister and Shah in New Delhi on Monday and both had confirmed their participation.

Contrary to claims of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal that the prime minister had confirmed his participation following a “personal invitation” from him (Badal), Sharma had earlier stated that the prime minister had never confirmed his participation.

The event to mark the 350th year of the holy town begins Wednesday (June 17) and the main event is on Friday.

Thousands of devotees have been reaching the town, 85 km from here, which is regarded as the birthplace of the Khalsa Panth, in the past two days.

The Akali Dal and BJP have been running an alliance government in Punjab since 2007 and the controversy over Modi visit is likely to create more differences between both sides.

Uncertainty had prevailed in the past week over the confirmation of the prime minister’s visit despite Badal’s claims.

The Sikh holy town is home to Takht Keshgarh Sahib, the second most important shrine in Sikh religion after ‘Harmandar Sahib’, popularly known as Golden Temple, in Amritsar.

The main event is being held by the Punjab government and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.

Anandpur Sahib town was founded on June 19, 1665 by ninth Sikh guru Tegh Bahadur. It was at Anandpur Sahib that the tenth Sikh guru, Gobind Singh, baptised the first five Sikhs and announced the birth of the Khalsa Panth, the modern day Sikh religion, on April 13, 1699.