Varun Gandhi has claimed that the CD in which he is heard making offensive remarks about Muslims is doctored. But even if it is not, Varun won’t be the first BJP leader to have made statements of this kind.
“The day is not far off when we’ll all be afraid of even calling ourselves Hindu. You will not find Sohan Lal, Mohan Lal, Atmaram or Radhakrishna anywhere. Wherever you turn, you’ll see only an Abbas or a Naqvi or a Rizvi or a Maulvi. They want to make India into Pakistan”.
These are excerpts from the voiceover of another controversial CD released by Lalji Tandon — former BJP minister, for years the right-hand man of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee — while he was the candidate from the Lucknow West seat in the last state elections in May 2007.
They were accompanied by scenes of cows being slaughtered, clips of the Babri Masjid demolition and provocative slogans attacking Muslims.
When the CD reached the media, it set off a storm similar to the one in which Varun is embroiled in. The Election Commission took note and lodged FIRs against Tandon and BJP chief Rajnath Singh under the same sections that Varun is charged. There was also talk of Tandon being barred from contesting.
But nothing happened.
The BJP said Tandon had been unaware of the CD, and suspended a few small-time workers who they claimed had prepared it. Tandon went on to win his seat comfortably.
Provocative speeches were first heard in the state during the 1989 assembly and Lok Sabha elections as the Ram Janmabhoomi movement was gathering steam. Leaders of the VHP campaigning openly for the BJP often made blatantly offensive speeches.
Sadhvi Rithambara, declaiming in rhymed couplets, held audiences spellbound. Khoon kharaba hona hai, to ek bar ho jane do (If blood must needs be shed, let it be shed once and for all) was her signature tune, and she got away with it too.
Nobody complained then, not the BJP, which was happy enough stirring up passions, not even the EC.
Even today, Yogi Adityanath, BJP MP from Gorakhpur, continues with his Muslim bashing. His supporters still raise slogans like Musalman ke do hi sthan, Pakistan ya Kabristan (Muslims should have no place save/Pakistan or else, the grave) at gatherings. But the administration has never pulled him up.
Kalyan Singh, former BJP CM who presided over the Babri demolition, but has now teamed up with Mulayam Singh Yadav, had outlined a simple formula to control communal riots while campaigning in Varanasi during the last assembly elections.
“For every blow they inflict on you, give them four in return...” he had thundered.
Former Bajrang Dal and VHP leaders, who moved to the BJP, like Vinay Katiyar and Swami Chinmayananda, have also been known for provocative, anti Muslim statements while campaigning. No leader, however, has faced action yet.
Whether Varun will get away too, despite the intense media scrutiny he has attracted, remains to be seen.