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Varun Gandhi, BJP battle to control damage

Holding that his anti-Muslim speeches amount to violation of the Model Code of Conduct, the Election Commission slapped notices on Varun Gandhi and BJP seeking their response by Friday. Listen to podcastaudioSurfers feedback

india Updated: Mar 19, 2009 08:38 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times

Ambika Shukla (Varun Gandhi’s aunt): There is somebody that needs you inside. Ok. There is somebody that needs you inside. Ok. I am afraid we will have to call it off.

CNN-IBN: This is on air. Last question, do you think it would have been easier if you would not have been a Gandhi. Do you think that’s the reason why there has been so much of a controversy over it?

Ambika Shukla: I don’t think we need your comment anymore. You have given your statement and that is it.

Varun Gandhi: Let me just answer the question, they are asking a question and I will answer it. I have nothing to hide.

CNN-IBN: Do you think the fact that you are a Gandhi has made it even more controversial?

Varun Gandhi: Yes but I would like to say that I stand for the truth, what I have said I have said but what I have not said I have not said.

The Election Commission on Wednesday held Varun Gandhi guilty of violating the model code of conduct and slapped on him and the party a notice seeking their response by Friday.

It has also ordered a video team to trail Varun for the duration of the campaign.

“The commission is of the opinion that the above action on your part amounts to violation of the provisions of the model code of conduct,” the EC said in its notice to Varun, referring to the speeches made by him in Mohalla Dalchand, Kotwali Pilibhit and Kasba Barkheda in Uttar Pradesh on March 7 and 8.

“All rallies and visits of Gandhi in his constituency will be monitored by a magistrate level official,” the EC said.

Hours after telling him not to add to the controversy over his alleged anti-Muslim remarks, the BJP denied him permission to hold a press conference at its headquarters here, after which he decided to meet reporters at his mother’s residence. The BJP’s stand came clear as its ally, JD(U) leader and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar reacted strongly to Varun’s remarks, saying by expressing his “displeasure in public” he expected the saffron party to clarify on the issue.

“I have not seen the TV footage (of Varun’s speech), but from what I have come to know, his statement hurt the sensibilities of a section of society. Anything said during an election or otherwise that hurts the sentiments of any community is condemnable,” Kumar said.

BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “The BJP disassociates from and disapproves of the statements attributed to him. He (Varun) has himself raised questions over the statements attributed to him and the Election Commission will deal with that.”

As Varun was seen by others as trying to play the Hindutva card, BJP’s Venkaiah Naidu said the party hadn’t issued any gag orders “but all candidates and party workers have been issued circulars on dos and don’t’s. They’ve been asked to keep in mind the party culture and EC guidelines.” He, however, said action against Varun couldn’t be taken without viewing the tapes and hearing his version.

Varun told TV reporters he had not spoken against Muslims and claimed he was being called communal because he spoke for Hindus. “I never made any communal statements. I went to an area in which I felt Hindus were being targeted, so I spoke in favour of the Hindu community. It is a very sad day in the Indian politics when anyone who speaks for Hindus is branded communal,” he said.

“All statements that have been put in my mouth are not true. There is no question of me making communal statements and they have put it into my mouth,” he said. “I stand for India and my legacy has always been to stand for everybody and not to just stand against anybody.”

Varun also said “the party (BJP) has an ideology of protecting Hindus. I have tried to protect weaker sections of Hindus, who have been targeted by anti-nationals, people from across the border because it is a border constituency (Pilibhit).”

Asked if the controversy had become intense because of his surname, he said: “Yes, but I’d like to say I stand for the truth but what I haven’t said I must firmly say I have not said it.”

First Published: Mar 18, 2009 19:31 IST