The war of words between Gandhis intensified on Tuesday, with Priyanka accusing estranged cousin Varun of “betraying the family” who hit back, saying he hadn’t crossed the “Lakshman rekha of decency” and his silence should not be read as a sign of weakness.
Gandhi vs Gandhi played out in the poll battlefields of Uttar Pradesh from where two Gandhi mother-son duos — Congress’ Sonia and Rahul and BJP’s Maneka and Varun — are in the running.
Round 2 started early on Tuesday when Varun, 34, addressed a gathering after filing papers as the BJP’s Sultanpur candidate. In an apparent reference to Priyanka’s earlier remark that he had “gone astray”, Varun said, “Our decency should not be taken as our weakness — I have never caused any harm to anybody. I have always given respect to others and treated their honour as my own.” “I have never crossed the ‘Lakshman rekha’ — be it my family or others.”
Some 30 km away, Priyanka reacted sharply when asked about her comments on Varun who is the Pilibhit MP but has moved to Sultanpur. His mother Maneka is the Pilibhit candidate. “It’s (elections) not a family tea party. It’s an ideological war,” she said while talking to mediapersons on way to neighbouring Amethi, Rahul’s constituency, from Rae Bareli’s Fursatganj airport.
Accusing Varun of betraying the family, Priyanka — in a reference to the “hate speech” delivered by him during the 2009 elections — said she was ashamed of him. “I strongly disagree with these views — I feel it is betrayal of my family.” “My father died for the unity of this country” and she wouldn’t have anybody disrespecting the family’s commitment to keeping society together, not even her children, Priyanka said.
Read: Varun Gandhi says Priyanka has crossed lakshman rekha of decency
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In Sultanpur, Varun said, “...if we do the politics of badmouthing one another and try to raise someone’s stature by belittling someone, it is not going to benefit anybody”. The BJP leader said he would not campaign in Amethi or Rae Bareli, where Congress chief Sonia Gandhi is seeking a re-election.
It was on April 12, hours after her brother Rahul filed papers from Amethi, that Priyanka while addressing a gathering of party workers from Sultanpur had said Varun had gone astray and they should show him the right path.
In Delhi, BJP leaders were happy that Varun chose a “dignified and decent” response to a “personal attack”. “The level of political discourse is touching new low everyday with one or the other Congress leader unleashing a personal attack on our leader. We are happy that Varun has responded to Priyanka in a graceful and judicious manner,” a BJP leader said.
Watch: It's ideological war not family tea party, says Priyanka Vadra on Varun Gandhi