Party obtaining CDs of his speeches for legal examination to lodge formal complaint

New Delhi: The alleged communal remarks of the BJP’s Pilibhit candidate Varun Gandhi in his constituency have drawn criticism from political parties.

Terming them “highly deplorable,” the Congress said it was preparing to lodge a formal complaint with the Election Commission.

“The kind of statement Varun Gandhi has come out with is highly deplorable and deserves proper action. He has not only communalised the situation but [also] used abusive words against the minorities,” All India Congress Committee general secretary Digvijay Singh told journalists here after leading a party delegation to the Commission.

The Congress also took note of the young BJP leader’s statements “belittling” Mahatma Gandhi, Mr. Singh said. It was obtaining the CDs of Mr. Gandhi’s speeches for legal examination. Once that was done, “we will put up a complaint formally.”

Asked about BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi’s statement that Mr. Gandhi’s remarks came owing to his “past Congress connection,” Mr. Singh retorted, “What rubbish.”

“Ever since L.K. Advani took out the Ram Rath Yatra, he has totally communalised the Indian polity. We have seen communal riots. Every time election comes, Ram mandir becomes an issue,” he said.

Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan told journalists that Mr. Gandhi’s remarks were “inflammatory” and “provocative.”

To a query whether the Congress filing a complaint against Mr. Gandhi meant an end of his relationship with party president Sonia Gandhi, she said, “This has no connection with any relationship.”

“The fact is that the BJP candidate made provocative statements as shown in news reports. As a political party, we had to bring it to the notice of the Election Commission,” she said.

A conspiracy: Mayawati

In Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati said: “The speech by Mr. Gandhi against the minorities is a planned conspiracy to spoil the law and order situation in the State and the Election Commission should take a stern view and initiate proper action in this connection.”

‘Committed to harmony’

The BJP candidate unsuccessfully tried to vitiate the atmosphere but the State government was committed to maintaining communal harmony and it would not tolerate any such attempt, she warned in a release.

The BSP chief claimed that Mr. Gandhi’s utterances only indicated the sentiments and ideology of his party towards Muslims and exposed its real face.

“Perturbed at the waning public support, the BJP leaders are issuing irresponsible statements to divide the people on religious lines,” Ms. Mayawati said, adding she warned last month itself that the BJP and other communal parties would make an attempt to create communal tension before the Lok Sabha polls.

Ignore it, says Mulayam

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh dismissed the controversy surrounding Mr. Gandhi’s “hate” speech, saying “such” people wanted only attention. “I don’t want to say anything on Arun...Varun. Leave it. Why do you [media] give importance to him... ,” he told journalists.

Asked whether he was aware of what Mr. Gandhi said, he said, “Leave the topic.”

SP general secretary Amar Singh said Mr. Gandhi had not said anything new. “He has only uttered what Mr. Advani had been saying all the time.”

RJD president and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad said Mr. Gandhi had “only spoken the language of the BJP and the sangh parivar” and that party was again trying to rake up Hindu-Muslim tensions. He said Mr. Advani could never become Prime Minister.

Lok Jan Shakti Party president and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan demanded that the BJP candidate be disqualified for “spreading hatred.”

Speech doctored: Varun

Mr. Gandhi, however, denied making any anti-Muslim comment. “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,” he said in a statement.

“I categorically reiterate my family’s and my own unwavering commitment to the ideals of secularism.”

Mr. Gandhi invoked his family legacy to convey the message that he stood for service and sacrifice for the nation and working for a peaceful and prosperous India.

His “frustrated electoral rivals” were making “a crude and vicious attempt” to malign him by doctoring his speech. “I unequivocally state that that [what is contained in the CD] is neither my voice nor my language.

“These are purportedly two weeks old. None of what I 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,” he said.

He was confident that the authorities would get to the bottom of this conspiracy and “severely punish those who malign and thwart a young person willing and able to contribute to the process of building a strong yet just, tolerant and inclusive society,” Mr. Gandhi said. — PTI

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