India’s ‘other Gandhi scion’ Varun booked for stirring communal cauldron

By Minu Jain and Rajat Rai, IANS,

New Delhi/Lucknow : Indira Gandhi’s grandson, the late Sanjay Gandhi’s son, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s nephew, the BJP’s candidate for MP from Pilibhit – the ‘other Gandhi’ Varun was at the centre of a raging storm Tuesday with a criminal case filed against him for his alleged hate-Muslim inflammatory remarks.

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Contesting his maiden election, the baby-faced 29-year-old found himself out in the cold for his fanatical pro-Hindu speeches that led to even the Bharatiya Janata Party distancing itself with a party spokesperson saying the party believed in religious harmony and national unity.

He was booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the People’s Representative Act for “promoting enmity” and acts “prejudicial to maintenance of harmony” by police in Uttar Pradesh’s Pilibhit constituency – carefully nurtured by his mother Maneka who gave up the seat to ensure his easy entry into the Lok Sabha.

The non-bailable case against Varun Gandhi, who said the CDs of his speeches were doctored, was lodged in Pilibhit’s Barkeda police station following a directive from the Election Commission to Uttar Pradesh’s chief electoral officer.

The Election Commission, which ordered the notice to Varun Gandhi and the BJP for the violation of the conduct code for elections, also wanted the transfer and suspension of district officials for dereliction of duty.

While the strident communal overtones of his campaign — where he threatened to cut off the hands of those who raise a “hand against Hindus” — had shocked local BJP workers in Pilibhit, it took even the central leadership by surprise.

Virtually shunning its candidate, the BJP said he must apologise for his inflammatory 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 in New Delhi.

However, he added that since Varun Gandhi had said the tapes were tampered with, the party would consider action only after seeing the evidence.

His party colleague, BJP vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, was equally forthright.

“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, but said pointedly: “It is the Congress culture to divide society on the basis of caste and religion.”

Congress leaders were scathing in their criticism of the young Gandhi, who traces his family roots to the Congress and was only three months old when his father Sanjay Gandhi died in an aircrash; he was four when grandmother Indira was assassinated.

Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal, who has seen Varun Gandhi closely as a young man, said: “This kind of Muslim bashing has been happening for a long time. But this is an extreme kind. This is the surest way of destroying the cultural ethos of the country and weakening the foundations of democracy based values. Such people have no right to be in politics.”

Added Congress general secretary Divijay Singh about the aspiring politician who has studied at the London School of Economics and the School of Oriental and African Studies: “Whatever Varun Gandhi has said is not only deplorable but deserves action by the Election Commission.”

Digvijay Singh, who met Election Commission officials in the morning to demand action, said the Congress was trying to acquire the CDs and hit out at the BJP saying: “Whenever polls come up, BJP does this.”

While the storm raged, mother Maneka Gandhi, who is five time MP from Pilibhit, refused to come to her son’s aid

“I don’t want to say anything,” Maneka Gandhi told IANS.

Varun Gandhi said in his defence in Pilibhit he would “clarify every single issue” at a press conference in Delhi he would address from a proper party platform Wednesday.