New Delhi: India’s main Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday rejected the Election Commission’s advice of not nominating Varun Gandhi as its candidate in the Lok Sabha elections.
“He is our candidate (in Pilibhit, Uttar Pradesh). We have turned down the advice because it does not have the right to give such an advice,” party spokesman Balbir Punj told reporters.
Gandhi—grandson of former prime minister Indira Gandhi and nephew of Sonia Gandhi, chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA)—also adopted a defiant posture and accused the country’s independent election regulator of acting in “haste” and going beyond its “jurisdiction”, “pressurized by political considerations”.
The morning after the commission’s unprecedented advice to the BJP of not nominating Varun Gandhi as a candidate in the general election in view of his alleged hate speeches against the Muslim community, BJP leaders met at the residence of L.K. Advani and decided to take on the commission. Punj said the commission does not have the technical expertise to verify the authenticity of a compact disc that contained speeches given by Gandhi.
He said while Maneka Gandhi’s son has been targeted by the commission, others convicted of murder or facing serious charges have been allowed to contest and become ministers. The BJP spokesman referred to the Congress party’s Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, who are accused in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
BJP leader Arun Jaitley said the commission’s advice is outside the ambit of law. “But today, before even a chargesheet has been filed, leave alone being convicted, to disqualify a person by suggesting and pressurizing the party is not within the powers of the EC,” he said.
Jaitley said he would have welcomed Election Commission’s advice if it had given a similar advice to Samajwadi Party not to nominate persons accused under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act and the UPA not to field those convicted of murder.
Punj said the advice had to do with the “proximity” of the chief election commissioner-designate Navin Chawla to the Congress and the strained relations between Sonia Gandhi and Maneka Gandhi.