Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The reported communal remarks by Varun Gandhi, Bharatiya Janata Party’s candidate from Pilibhit and son of Maneka Gandhi, at several rallies in his constituency were strongly criticised by the party’s two Muslim faces – Shahnawaz Hussain and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi – but some other leaders preferred to say that they had not heard the speech, which was was telecast by several channels.

Mr. Hussain said he had conveyed his strong protest to the senior party leadership, including party president Rajnath Singh and its prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani.

A few leaders in the party admitted that this, added to the fact that so far the BJP has cleared only two Muslim candidates, would certainly push back Mr. Advani’s attempt to present the BJP as the “true secular party” with others like the Congress and the Left being “pseudo secular.”

He said: “I heard the shocking speech on television and never in my years of association with the BJP, have I ever heard any party leader using such foul abusive language against any community. Moreover, it was shocking that he indirectly also abused Mahatma Gandhi,” Mr. Hussain said. “I trust my party leadership will look at the issue sternly.”

Mr. Naqvi did not deny that Mr. Gandhi used unacceptable language against Muslims, but said that this was because of his past “Congress culture,” although he was not able to say when Mr. Varun Gandhi was with the Congress, for he has been with the BJP well before he reached the age of contesting the Lok Sabha polls.

Party leader Venkaiah Naidu, however, was more inclined to believe what Mr. Gandhi himself said later – that he had not said anything communal and the “tapes” with the television channels were “doctored” and “fraudulent.” The party would first have to find out what exactly Mr. Gandhi said.

Some in the party said Mr. Gandhi would come here, hold a press conference and explain what he said and what he did not.

More In: Today's Paper