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Gloves off, BJP top brass backs Varun, slams Cong, BSP

Gloves off, BJP top brass backs Varun, slams Cong, BSP

Author: Express news service
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: April 2, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/gloves-off-bjp-top-brass-backs-varun-slams-cong-bsp/442089/0

Switching gears on the Varun Gandhi issue, the BJP top brass today came out in defence of their party leader jailed under the NSA and slammed the Congress and BSP for attempting to "communalise the Lok Sabha elections". The party also accused the Election Commission of "adopting double standards" by "letting criminals contest" while opposing Gandhi's candidature.

Describing Gandhi's detention under the NSA as part of "vote bank politics" in UP, BJP prime ministerial candidate L K Advani ruled out isolating the young leader "in his hour of need". Speaking to reporters in Bhubaneswar, Advani said: "The move to detain him under the NSA is purely due to vote bank politics in Uttar Pradesh... and everybody knows who are behind it". Stating that Gandhi was not a terrorist, Advani said the allegation against him was about his statement and wondered how the NSA could be invoked for a charge of this nature.

In Raipur, BJP president Rajnath Singh said his party would "politically and legally" defend Varun Gandhi who was "being harassed" for "vitiating the political atmosphere and disrupting social harmony" before the polls. "Both the Congress and Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh are trying to communalise the Lok Sabha polls for narrow political gains," he said.

"There are people in our country who had announced rewards for anyone who beheaded (former) US President George Bush. Why were they not booked under the NSA?... Cases on the charge of attempt to murder and the NSA cannot be justified. Varun is now being shifted from one jail to another. We shall chalk out our future course of action on the Varun Gandhi issue in Delhi on April 3," said Rajnath Singh, adding that it was the "responsibility of the Centre, UP government and the Election Commission to provide him protection in jail".

BJP leaders M Venkaiah Naidu and Kalraj Mishra along with the UP BJP president would visit Gandhi in jail around noon Thursday. Explaining the shift in the party position on the issue, Venkaiah Naidu told The Indian Express: "It's debatable whether the statements made by Varun were right or not. But how does one justify using the NSA against a young leader for that, when there's no action on Afzal Guru or (Abdul Nasser) Madani in Kerala or those hoisting Pakistani flags? It's for this reason that L K Advani and Rajnath Singh have asked me to visit Varun in jail."

Party sources said the debate over the "authenticity of the hate speeches CD" had been completely overtaken by the NSA, so "the fight becomes one between those believing in democracy and those who don't". "The Emergency is identified with a particular regime in the country. It's the same mindset at work even today."

fter saying that Varun was not welcome to campaign in Bhopal, Sushma Swaraj too changed tacks, accusing the Election Commission and Mayawati of "adopting double standards" in the case of Gandhi. "The very same Election Commission which was advising the BJP not to set up Varun as a candidate saw nothing wrong in criminals like Mukhtar Ansari and Atiq Ahmed contesting the elections," she told reporters.

Mayawati had slapped the NSA on Varun, but took no action against people like Ansari who have been given BSP tickets for Lok Sabha polls, she said, adding that there was no question of the BJP distancing itself from remarks made by Gandhi.

In Chandigarh, BJP spokesperson Balbir Punj alleged that the decision to punish Varun Gandhi was the result of "minority vote bank politics between the BSP and Congress" and said his party would challenge it legally. Addressing a press conference, he said the Election Commission "had acted under pressure from some superior powers".

"Priyanka and Rahul have expressed their strident opinion on the controversy and disdain for Varun even before the charges have been proved. Charges under Section 307, which basically is attempt to murder, have been pressed against him. Similarly, grave charges under the NSA have been made against him. This is ridiculous and in clear violation of natural justice as he has been declared accused, guilty and punished without confirming the veracity of the CD. The action of Election Commission has been unprecedented, clearly goaded by pressure from someone more powerful," Balbir Punj said.

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