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Varun hit for communal slur
Published on 18 Mar. 2009 1:36 AM IST
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A day after reports of his allegedly communal speech hit the media, BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate from Pilibhit, Varun Gandhi issued an apology while clarifying that he did not say anything against any particular community. Denying that his speech was communal, he said that he was speaking against anti social elements. Two girls had been raped in the area and people were frightened. His aim was to bolster the people’s confidence. “If my comments have hurt anyone, I apologise,” he said. “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 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. “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. Varun is in the eye of a storm for making inflammatory remarks with communal overtones which saw the Election Commission slap a notice on the young Gandhi and his party the BJP. The clarification comes on the heels of the District Magistrate of Pilibhit in UP filing an FIR against Varun Gandhi. The Election Commission had directed Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Election Officer to file a case against Varun and issue notice to his party for the communal remarks against a particular religion. The FIR has been filed under Section 153 A of the Indian Penal code which pertains to spreading enmity between two communities and is non-bailable. BJP dissociates Shunning its ‘other Gandhi’ candidate, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said Tuesday dissociated itself from Varun Gandhi’s inflammatory anti-Muslim remarks that go against the party’s credo of “harmony and unity”. “We are of the strong belief that Varun Gandhi should apologise. The BJP dissociates itself from his remarks,” Shahnawaz Hussain, the party’s spokesperson in parliament, told reporters here. “This (Gandhi’s remarks) is not what the party stands for,” Hussain asserted. Echoing his view, BJP vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said this was not the culture of the BJP. “BJP believes in prosperity, harmony and unity and it is the only tool to fight terror,” Naqvi told IANS. He did not refer to Varun Gandhi’s Congress family background - he is the son of the late Sanjay Gandhi, former prime minister Indira Gandhi’s younger son, and Maneka Gandhi - but said: “It is the Congress culture to divide society on the basis of caste and religion.” Clearly distancing himself from the controversy, Naqvi said it was up to the Election Commission to take action against Varun Gandhi if he had violated the model code of conduct. The 29-year-old was Sunday issued a notice by the district authorities in Uttar Pradesh’s Pilibhit, the constituency so carefully nurtured by his mother who gave up the seat to ensure his easy entry into the Lok Sabha.

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