Varun Gandhi withdraws anticipatory bail, BJP rallies behind him (Roundup)March 27th, 2009 - 8:13 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, March 27 (IANS) After withdrawing his bail plea from the Delhi High Court Friday, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) backed its controversial candidate Varun Gandhi, in the dock for his reported hate speeches, and indicated he could go ahead and court arrest.
“There is definitely an element of political vendetta against Varun Gandhi. Varun Gandhi has the option of either seeking extension of his bail or courting arrest,” BJP spokesperson Balbir Punj told IANS.
“The party will support him in whatever he chooses to do within the framework of law,” Punj said.
The BJP show of support was indicative that the party wants to make him a mascot and rallying point for Hindutva in a campaign that was otherwise seen to be flagging in the absence of any emotional issues to stir up its supporters, particularly in a state like Uttar Pradesh.
But even though the 29-year-old Varun Gandhi, grandson of former prime minister Indira Gandhi, received full support from the party leadership, Janata Dal-United (JD-U) president Sharad Yadav, the party’s ally, spoke out against his communally charged speeches and asserted the Election Commission must ensure stern action.
“The Election Commission should initiate tough action against anyone who makes such remarks,” said Sharad Yadav after Varun Gandhi withdrew his bail application in a reported bid to court arrest.
Asked whether Varun Gandhi’s statements would have any impact on the JD-U’s electoral prospects, the convenor of the BJP-led NDA said: “We are not going to be affected by it. Nobody can point a finger at our secularism.”
He also said his party was part of the NDA; “we are together and there is no change in this position.”
Just a couple of days earlier, colleague Nitish Kumar had reacted similarly to Varun Gandhi’s utterances, saying: “I feel he (Varun) cannot escape legal action.”
Party insiders said Varun Gandhi is expected to court arrest in Pilibhit Saturday and maintain that he fought for the “swabhiman (self esteem) of Hindus.”
Varun Gandhi courted controversy after his reported speeches, which he claims were doctored, early this month during election rallies in the Pilibhit constituency in Uttar Pradesh, from where he is contesting.
The Election Commission reprimanded him while the police lodged a criminal case against him for the incendiary remarks.
A case against Varun Gandhi was lodged in Pilibhit, the Uttar Pradesh constituency from which he is contesting in the April-May Lok Sabha poll.
Varun Gandhi has been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Representation of People Act for “promoting enmity” and acts “prejudicial to maintenance of harmony” by police in Pilibhit.
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