BJP washes its hands off Varuns anti-Muslim remarks

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 20 2009, 03:56am hrs
Forcing it on the backfoot, the Varun Gandhi episode continued to dog the BJP even as it disassociated itself from the reported anti-Muslim speech of the young leader and denied him permission to clarify on the matter from the party podium.

The embarrassment persisted even as the Election Commission contended that the remarks amounted to violation of model code of conduct and slapped notices, both to Varun as well as the BJP and asked them to respond by Friday. It also ordered video tracking of all the visits, speeches and rallies made by Varun in Uttar Pradesh while it suspended the additional district magistrate and SP of Pilibhit, and transferred the DM and SP to non-election posts.

An unapologetic Varun, however, contended that the speeches were doctored and claimed that he was a victim of political conspiracy. I am proud of my faith and not apologetic about it. I am a Gandhi, a Hindu and an Indian in equal measure, he said. Those are not my words and that is not my voice. I have not made any communal statement. I stand by what I have said and what I have not said, I will strongly refute, he told the electronic media at the residence of his mother and BJP MP Maneka Gandhi.

That the BJP was seized of the matter was obvious when senior leaders including party chief Rajnath Singh and vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi spoke to the young leader and expressed their annoyance over the controversy. The party however stopped short of taking action against him, saying that the matter was before the Election Commission. BJP disassociates and disapproves the contents of the speech and the comments attributed to Varun. We have not received any notice from the Commission on the issue, party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters here this afternoon.

In its notice to the young leader and the BJP, the EC has said that Varun had violated the model code of conduct by inciting communal feeling through his speeches at three places on March 7 and 8. The issue drew sharp attacks from BJPs rivals with Congress leader and Union minister Kapil Sibal demanding even his arrest while CPI (M) asked BJP to pull back his candidature from Pilibhit. CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said if the BJP did not withdraw his candidature, then it will be established that the party backs the unfiltered communal venom Varun has poured.