M A I N   N E W S

Varun surrenders, in style
* Sent to jail
* Case hearing on March 30
* Supporters go berserk
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, March 28
By managing to surrender before a local court, Pilibhit BJP candidate Varun Gandhi today virtually rode a saffron wave electrifying the political atmosphere and using the law to draw maximum political mileage.

Despite tension, the situation was described as “under control” by a state government press release. The statement charged Varun’s supporters of stone pelting on the police and jail officials without any provocation.

Under the directives of the Election Commission of India, the district administration had filed criminal cases against Varun for allegedly making inflammatory communal speeches during his election campaign earlier this month.

Despite claiming to be fully geared, the district administration had to use mild force to check the stone-pelting supporters of the BJP candidate outside the court and later at the Pilibhit jail.

SP Pilibhit Prakash D confirmed that around 20 persons suffered ordinary injuries when the police had to resort to lathicharge to control the crowd. He categorically ruled out the use of firing in the air or rubber bullets.

He refused to comment on how such a huge crowd had gathered despite Section 144 being in force.

Varun’s lawyer Prashant Singh Atal filed a bail application in the CJM court on which hearing has been deferred till Monday as the prosecution had sought time. The court has also asked the controversial leader and the investigating officer (IO) to submit relevant papers on March 30.

After that Varun was taken to the district jail followed by a heavy fan following. In what now appears to be a well-planned move, thousands of Hindutva workers had collected to welcome the young BJP leader early this morning. No BJP flag was in sight. The supporters were holding saffron flags with the Om symbol.

BJP's incharge of polls for Uttar Pradesh, Kalraj Mishra, was personally present in Pilibhit to supervise the operation. However, he claimed to be an observer who had arrived to ensure that there is no violation of the model code of conduct.



Cong calls it poll gimmick
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 28
The Congress today slammed BJP’s prime ministerial candidate LK Advani for “remaining silent” on his party candidate Varun Gandhi’s alleged “hate speeches” on the basis of which Varun had managed to create a political storm in his constituency Pilibhit.

While the Congress dubbed the entire episode a ‘tamasha’ in which Varun was merely following a script written by Advani, his arrest saw the BJP downplay the episode by terming it as an “act as per the law”.

Soon after Varun reached his constituency to court arrest, the Congress directed its ire on Advani. Senior party leader Kapil Sibal said “a silent Advani” was completely in tune with what was happening. “Without his consent this could not have happened. He could have easily stopped it. He wants this issue to carry on in public eye and continue this tamasha (drama),” Sibal said.

He said this would impact Advani's image adversely as the Hindu community would not approve of this kind of politics.

“It is time for Advaniji to react in a mature fashion,” he suggested. Political observers say the Congress, choosing not to attack the ‘saffron Gandhi’ directly while continuing to strike against Advani, suggests a soft corner for the young Gandhi in the party.

As far as the BJP is concerned, party spokesman Prakash Javadekar said it was unfortunate if someone wanted to term a person trying to surrender before the court a ‘tamasha’. “The fact that Varun Gandhi presented himself before the police and submitted himself to the due process of law shows how much the party honours the court and the law. “The law has been followed. How can someone stop an individual from following the rule of the land?” Javadekar said.

When asked whether the party supported Varun, Javadekar said: “He is following what is prescribed in the law. He himself has said the tapes circulated in the media are doctored and he does not support hatred towards any community.”But the Varun episode has the grand old party worried.

Observers say by choosing to court arrest Varun has in a way proven that he stands by what he had said - that he was only speaking for the protection of a particular community. After the reaction in Pilibhit following Varun’s arrest, the Congress is worried that Pilibhit after-shocks may spill out of the constituency further into Uttar Pradesh and other parts of India.

The party is taking on the BJP rather than criticising Varun openly, perhaps because of his famous surname. But it will use the context of speeches made by Varun for the consolidation of votes of a particular section of the society.



Oppn made Varun a poster boy, says Advani

Padrauna (UP), March 28
BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate LK Advani today came out in support of Varun Gandhi, under fire for his alleged hate speeches, and said it was the opposition which had made him a “poster boy”.

He accused the Election Commission of exceeding its brief by suggesting BJP should not field him as a candidate in the election.

“We did not make Varun Gandhi a poster boy. It is the others who give publicity. Most of the time, our opponents have made him a poster boy,” Advani said.

Meanwhile, BJP leader Maneka Gandhi, mother of Varun Gandhi, remarked: “I am proud of my son Varun Gandhi.”

Ms Gandhi reached Pilibhit today and went straight to jail to meet her son. Before entering into the highly cordoned-off jail premises, she told reporters that her son was a brave person and she was proud of him. — Agencies



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