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The Varun story that wasn’t

india Updated: May 10, 2009 11:57 IST
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Feroz Varun Gandhi has done it again. Well, not quite.

The London-based newspaper, Daily Telegraph’s website wrote on Saturday that he had said in an interview-based story that he wanted to revive his father Sanjay Gandhi’s controversial sterilisation policy.

Although the report did not have any direct or indirect quote from Gandhi making such a comment, tongues started wagging and he again became the talking point in the media — this time for a reason that was not.

In two hours, political parties — especially his own — issued statements. For, they did not want to take any chances during the poll season. Friends distanced themselves from him. Foes spewed fire.

BJP spokesperson Siddharth Nath Singh told a news agency in Delhi, “What Varun Gandhi has said about forced sterilisation may be his personal view. The BJP… does not support any policy of forced sterilisation.”

Uttar Pradesh BJP president Ramapati Ram Shastri and senior BJP leader Lalji Tandon echoed the party line. “If he raises the issue in the party forum, we would discuss it,” Shastri said. The party’s election in-charge for UP, Kalraj Mishra, played it even safer. He refused to comment.

But two hours later, the website made amends. Dean Nelson, South Asia Editor of the newspaper and author of the report, released a second version, adding two paragraphs to the report.

The new addition incorporated Gandhi’s comments, describing the methods used during his father’s time as “roughshod”. He said he was in favour of a “sensible” family planning programme implemented through education, awareness and positive incentives.

Varun Gandhi had hit headlines in March this year when video recordings of his election speeches showed him delivering inflammatory anti-Muslim comments.

The UP government booked him under the National Security Act and sent him to jail. He was in jail for nearly three weeks and got out on parole after he appealed to the Supreme Court.