It is hugely ironical that the BJP (and their candidate from Pilibhit parliamentary constituency, Varun Gandhi) should accuse the Election Commission of bias against the young lad due to the presence of Chief Election Commissioner designate, Naveen Chawla. But before we get to explaining that irony, here are a few facts.
Varun Gandhi is the son of Sanjay and Maneka Gandhi, grandson of former prime minister, Indira Gandhi and great-grandson of secular and liberal, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister. His father was the heir apparent to take over the crown of ruling India from his mother. Unfortunately, when Varun was merely three months old, his father was killed in a plane crash and the throne passed on to his uncle, Rajiv Gandhi and his progeny.
Widowed and bereft of power once Sanjay was dead, it was only a matter of time before Maneka Gandhi would be eased out of the Congress and the charmed circle of India’s royalty (the Nehru – Gandhi family). She drifted about a bit for some years till she found her niche as the vegan-missionary minister of the BJP in their NDA Government. Varun followed his mother into the BJP and was groomed to take over her pocket borough of Pilibhit.
This election, Varun Gandhi, 29, had been declared the BJP candidate for Pilibhit and had already started his campaign when one of his speeches was recorded and broadcast on TV. For those who wouldn’t follow the recorded voice clearly here are the main transcripts. Even by the standards of regular BJP leaders, this speech seemed shocking. Varun was recorded saying that all Muslims in India should be sent to Pakistan, that they have strange names and scary visages, so much so that if you see them at night you’d be scared and ended up with a ‘brave’ “I’ll cut off their heads and hands to protect the Hindus” speil. Poor boy forgot the RSS division of labour. The BJP puts on a moderate face and such “home-truths” are left to VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders. Even L.K. Advani during his infamous Rath Yatra was more circumspect. For the RSS led Sangh Parivar, the problem lay not in what he said but the fact that it was now out in the open and their Mukhauta (mask) had slipped yet again.
Once the tapes were broadcast on TV, a familiar soap opera began. The BJP initially seemed to distance itself from his speech and Varun himself made a ‘too-clever-by-half’ defence where he simultaneously claimed that the video was doctored while also defending what he said.
The matter was reported to the EC and after many viewings of the video, the Election Commission found Varun guilty of violating the Model Code of Conduct, and advised the BJP to withdraw his candidature for the LS polls. The unanimous verdict of the EC further stated, “The commission considered the speeches as a grave violation of the model code of conduct, apart from amounting to promoting feelings of enmity and hatred between different classes on the ground of religion, outraging the religious feeling of a particular community, and promoting hatred and ill-will between two classes of citizens and provoking a section of the citizens to indulge in violence”. Finally, it said, “Any sponsorship of his candidature by the BJP, or any other political party at this election, would be perceived as endorsing his unpardonable acts of inciting violence and creating feelings of enmity and hatred between different classes of citizens of India, destroying the social, democratic and plural fabric of the country”.
Given this clear verdict, the BJP came out with a predictable response: We do not accept this order and Varun Gandhi remains our candidate. In fact, there were a fair number of comments in the papers which suggested that Varun had emulated Narendra Modi’s style and substance to win his maiden election. He surely warmed the hearts of Hindutva fascists all over the country, including our very own pink chaddi Muthalik. So, yet again, the BJP showed its true colours and came out in defence of the grossest form of communal prejudice and questioned the legitimacy of yet another constitutional body.
But what was ironical was their statement that the EC has come to this decision due to the “influence” of Chief Election Commissioner designate, Naveen Chawla. Most people will remember the BJP’s strong opposition to Naveen Chawla being appointed EC and now being promoted to the top post because they alleged that he was “close” to Sonia Gandhi and her family and party. What many may not remember is that Naveen Chawla was one of the blue-eyed boys of Varun’s father, Sanjay Gandhi. It was Naveen Chawla, then posted as Secretary to the Lt. Governor of Delhi, who supervised Sanjay Gandhi’s infamous slum demolition and sterilisation drives in the old city of Delhi during the dark days of the Emergency. Who can forget the demolitions at Turkman Gate and near the Jama Masjid where Muslim dominated slums were targetted for sudden destruction. In fact, Naveen Chawla’s role in Emergency excesses is well recorded by the Shah Commission whch was appointed to probe these. The Shah Commission indicted Mr Chawla for having been “authoritarian and callous” and for gross misuse of power “in cynical disregard of the welfare of citizens”. Further, it declared that he was “unfit to hold any public office which demands an attitude of fair play and consideration for others”.
Now, more than three decades since the Emergency, Sanjay Gandhi’s crony is being accused of scuttling the political career of his mentor’s son! Who needs Ekta Kapoor and her soap operas when we have the full glory of bourgeois politics to entertain us.
It would be a great comedy, if it was not such a big tragedy. Looking at these incidents in their full historical and political salience, it becomes apparent that there is no possibility of real change as long as the choice for the voter remains confined to the two parties of Indian big bourgeoisie — the Congress and the BJP. The real message from this episode is that the only alternative is for the Left to be strengthened and radical alternatives foregrounded in politics.
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