Facing flak for his anti-Muslim remarks, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate for the Pilibhit Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh, Varun Gandhi on Tuesday strongly denied having made any communal or divisive statements and termed it a 'vicious attempt' to malign him.
"I strongly refute the charge of making any communal or divisive statements as part of my election campaign. In this climate of terrorism, I have spoken only about standing firm against anti-national and anti-social forces that threaten this nation," Varun Gandhi said in a statement issued on Tuesday evening.
Varun, who is Indira Gandhi's grandson and late Sanjay Gandhi's son, is contesting from Pilibhit constituency which has been carefully nurtured by his mother Maneka Gandhi.
He said, "There are two speeches that have been attacked and these are two weeks old. None of what I have actually said was either intended or taken to be communal, which is testified to by the fact that in this intervening period there has been no communal tension or untoward incident in the district."
Gandhi claimed that in one instance he was referring to bad elements and in the second one the tapes have been doctored.
He has been booked by the police in Uttar Pradesh under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the People's Representative Act for 'promoting enmity' and acts 'prejudicial to maintenance of harmony'.
The case was lodged following a directive from the Election Commission to Uttar Pradesh's chief electoral officer. The poll panel, which ordered the notice to Varun Gandhi and the BJP for violation of the conduct code for elections, also wanted the transfer and suspension of district officials for dereliction of duty.
"These unauthenticated CDs circulated to every channel, are being distributed by frustrated electoral rivals who, having failed in the last many elections, are now resorting to cheap gimmicks to gain unfair political advantage," Gandhi said.
Gandhi is expected to address a press conference at the BJP headquarters at New Delhi Wednesday.
He said in the statement: "Coming from a family that has been part of India's history for the last century, I am well aware of my responsibility to the nation and would never jeopardize its strength and unity. Perhaps my opponents sensed an opportunity in the candidature of a young and inexperienced rookie. Yes, I am young and yes, this is my first campaign."
Gandhi said that the rivals are seeking ways to try and block him from participating freely and fairly in the electoral process.
"I am confident that the people of this nation will see through this crude and vicious attempt to malign me," he said.
"I express full confidence in the authorities to get to the bottom of this conspiracy and severely punish those who would malign and thwart a young person willing and able to contribute to the process of building a strong, yet just tolerant and inclusive society," he said.