Varun calls himself a victim, Congress mocks
Defending himself over his alleged anti-Muslim speech, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Lok Sabha candidate Varun Gandhi on Wednesday said the video footage was “doctored” and a “political conspiracy” has been hatched to malign him. But the party’s main political rival Congress called Varun’s speech contrary to secular democracy and said BJP would be equally at fault if it fails to take action against him.
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“I have been a victim of a political conspiracy. Those are not my words and that is not my voice. I have not made any communal statement,” said Varun, a scion of the estranged Gandhi family and a saffron party candidate from Pilibhit.
Varun said the tape has been doctored and it was a “malicious attempt” to brand him communal. “It has been doctored. It has been a malicious attempt to brand me as communal. There is no question of my having any ill feeling towards (any) community,” Varun said.
Union minister Kapil Sibal said when cognizance has been taken by the Election Commission that a prima facie offence has been committed, whether Varun denies it or not is not relevant.
“The leadership of BJP will take action because if they don’t, then it will be seen that they are the co-conspirators in this,” Sibal said.
Alleging the speech was aimed at polarizing votes, the minister said, “I am not concerned with the nature and quality of the speech. It is abhorrent. It is contrary to the basic foundations of our secular democracy.”
“I don’t think people of the country are going to be taken in by whatever the young Varun Gandhi would have to say because the whole country is aware that it is the BJP which practices hate politics,” Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said.
Tewari said the Election Commission would not have intervened if it was a political conspiracy as is being made out to be by Gandhi. “This means that they (EC) are prima facie convinced about the veracity of the CD,” he said.
Consensus needed on prime ministerial candidate: Naidu
Maintaining that he was not aspiring for the prime minister’s post, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader Chandrababu Naidu on Wednesday said the issue on who will occupy the top job has to be decided by consensus.
“There is only one seat for prime minister’s post. Many people have aspirations. Ultimately, we have to bring some consensus. I am confident people will realize this. Ultimately they will adjust on consensus candidate that will emerge,” he said.
Asked if Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati could be a consensus candidate, the TDP leader told a TV channell, “I cannot comment on these things at this juncture. Reason is very clear - all of us have to sit in a coalition politics then decide the candidate. There is nothing wrong in aspiring, ultimately in Indian politics we are watching when the time comes everybody will adjust.”
Naidu said on his part he was not interested in the prime minister’s post.
“Never have I aspired, even in future. I am not a candidate. Twice I got an offer, I made very clear I am not an aspirant,” he added.
UPA allies to contest in Jharkhand together: Lalu
After entering into a seat sharing arrangement in Bihar, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad has said the UPA allies will contest on similar lines in Jharkhand as well even as sharp differences among stakeholders - RJD, Congress, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Lok Janashakti Party - are yet to be sorted out.
“We will contest jointly even in Jharkhand,” Lalu said on Tuesday.
The RJD chief’s statement notwithstanding, the allies are still far from reconciling a number of issues.
The JMM’s chief whip and party MP Teklal Mahto has claimed under a “sitting getting” and “no friendly fight” formula seat sharing had been finalized among the UPA allies for the 15th Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand under which Congress would get six seats, five would go to JMM and RJD would be left with three with no seats being given to LJP as it had no presence in the state after the 2004 elections.
But, LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan said, “We have first zeroed in on six seats in Jharkhand to contest where we have good presence. The party will, however, contest on all 14 seats and will announce its candidates phase wise.”
The seat sharing arrangement was also rejected by former chief minister Shibu Soren’s son Durga Soren who said no UPA alliance is possible in Jharkhand unless his father or another JMM MLA was given chief ministership of the state.
According to the formula spelt out by Mahato, JMM, RJD and Congress had agreed to retain the 12 seats currently held by the respective parties.
The remaining two seats -- Hazaribagh and Koderma held by CPI and an independent -- were to be decided among the three allies -- RJD, Congress and JMM.
The seat sharing issue is understood to have been discussed in the recent meeting between LJP’s senior leaders and RJD chief Lalu Prasad during the parleys for Bihar alliance after the LJP had declared candidates on six Jharkhand seats as “it was not consulted by RJD, JMM and Congress” during the earlier seat-sharing agreement for the state.
Meanwhile, Congress is visibly upset with the RJD-LJP agreement in Bihar which left them with only three seats and threatens to go alone in the state complaining of being given a “raw deal”.
With AICC general secretary and Uttar Pradesh in-charge Digvijay Singh announcing on Tuesday that there was no scope for seat sharing arrangement with the Samajwadi Party anymore, many of the UPA allies seem to be at loggerheads in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand.
Congress reaches agreement with JMM, to contest 7 seats
Smarting under Bihar snub, the Congress on Wednesday struck back at Rashtriya Janata Dal by sewing up a seat sharing agreement with Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in Jharkhand leaving Lalu Prasad just two seats his party had won in the last elections.
A day after Lalu’s RJD and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party unilaterally got into a deal in Bihar leaving a paltry three seats for Congress, the national party and JMM announced a pact under which they would contest seven and five seats respectively. Jharkhand has a total of 14 seats.
“We have finalised the seat sharing agreement. Congress will contest seven and JMM five. We have left two seats for RJD,” said AICC in-charge for Jharkhand K.Keshav Rao.
The agreement negates an earlier understanding under which Congress was supposed to contest only six seats while RJD was to contest three seats.
Sources say the bone of contention was the Koderma seat which both Congress and RJD wanted to contest. The seat was won in the last Lok Sabha elections by former BJP leader Babu Lal Marandi, who retained it as an independent in a by-poll later.
Hazaribagh seat was last time won by CPI, which is not the party of UPA alliance this time. Hence, JMM will be contesting this seat. Apart from these two seats, the remaining 12 are sitting seats of three parties.
Centre approves issue of notification for Lok Sabha polls
New Delhi: A formal nod for issuing notifications for the commencement of general election process was given by the government on Wednesday.
A meeting of the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved the issue of notifications by the President for the five-phase polls beginning 16 April.
The notifications will be on 23 March, 28 March, 2 April, 7 April and 17 April, said home minister P. Chidambaram.
The Election Commission had announced the schedule for general election as well as to the legislative assemblies of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Sikkim to be held on 16 April, 23 April, 30 April, 7 May and 13 May.
The Representation of the People Act requires that the President shall issue notifications for the general election.