Sujay Mehdudia

It shows what the BJP believes in, says Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat

Everybody should maintain restraint in speech: Sharad Yadav

The company he keeps is the real culprit, says Amar Singh

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission’s indictment of the BJP’s Varun Gandhi for his “communal speeches” and the party’s refusal to withdraw his candidature have evoked strong reactions from political parties.

Reacting to the BJP’s charge that the Commission was biased, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said the principal Opposition party was resorting to its old technique of shooting the messenger. “It is foolish to criticise the Commission, as it refers to its own limitations under the law in the order.”

On the BJP’s decision to field Mr. Gandhi, the Congress noted that this was in keeping with its doublespeak. “First, the party chose to distance itself from his statements and now it stands by him.”

All India Congress Committee in charge of Uttar Pradesh Digvijay Singh said the entire episode surrounding Mr. Gandhi made the BJP game plan to communalise the elections obvious.

“Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United) and other allies of the BJP should take note of this and ponder whether they want to ally with a party that is endorsing the use of such abusive language against minorities,” he said.

As to whether the Congress planned to take on Mr. Gandhi on this issue, he said: “Varun is not the issue; but the mindset. One cannot imagine that a person from the Nehru-Gandhi family could use this kind of language against minorities.”

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) condemned the BJP’s refusal to withdraw Mr. Gandhi’s candidature, saying it proved that the saffron party supported the ‘communal venom’ spewed by him.

“It only goes to show that the BJP supports whatever Mr. Gandhi said and the party is not in the least concerned about the Constitution, the democratic norms and political decency It shows what the BJP believes in,” said CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, Brinda Karat.

She described the BJP’s stand on the issue as “outrageous and shameful.” After the Election Commission said it found that the tapes were not doctored, Mr. Gandhi’s candidature should have been taken back.

Her party colleague Sitaram Yechury said if the BJP had any modicum of political morality left in it, it should have immediately withdrawn (Mr. Gandhi’s) candidature for the “crass communal venom he spewed” at his election meetings. “The unfiltered communal poison spread by his speeches is simply disgusting and cannot be tolerated in any secular democratic polity,” he said.

Holding that the Election Commission was “within its jurisdiction” in indicting Mr. Gandhi, National Democratic Alliance’s acting convener and JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav said the speech crossed all limits of decency. “The remarks of Varun Gandhi that I have heard have crossed all limits of decency,” he told reporters here.

Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh said the “company” Mr. Gandhi kept was the real culprit behind his alleged communal remarks.

“I am not surprised at the stand taken by the BJP. His mindset, which has been polluted by the company he keeps, is the real culprit,” Mr. Singh told reporters here.

BJP allies urged not to nominate Varun

The Citizens for Justice And Peace (CJP) and the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT) issued an open letter to allies of the BJP urging them to not only condemn “outright” the communal “hate-ridden” speeches of Varun Gandhi, but to ensure that he was not given ticket for the coming elections.

The letter has been sent to the JD (U), the Indian National Lok Dal, the Asom Gana Parishad and the Rashtriya Lok Dal. It says Mr. Gandhi’s hate speech epitomises the core of the BJP’s “supremist and ultra-nationalist” ideology that has always targeted India’s syncretic civilisational ethos and specifically targets Muslims and Christians. Not to oppose his candidature will amount to supporting for the content of his violence-ridden speech, the signatories have said.

Stating that the BJP’s core ideology stems from its political heart — the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh — the CJP and SAHMAT said the NDA constituents needed to make their position clear on Mr. Gandhi’s speech and his possible nomination as a Lok Sabha candidate from Pilibhit. “Not to oppose his nomination and candidature as Lok Sabha candidate is to support not just Varun Gandhi but the BJP that has grown from strength to strength through flagrant violations of the Constitution and the rule of law.”

The signatories include Teesta Setalvad, Javed Akhtar, Javed Anand, Rahul Bose, Vivan Sundaram, Ram Rahman, M.K. Raina, Shakti Kjak, Archana Prasad, Madhu Prasad, C.P. Chandrashekhar, Indira Chandrashekhar, Badri Raina, Prabhat Patnaik, Utsa Patnaik and Chanchal Chauhan.