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The other Gandhi in this election

This week the "other Gandhi" in Indian politics came under fire for an alleged hate speech he delivered before a throng of voters in Uttar Pradesh — India's largest state and the location of the constituencies that Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul, call home.

Many of TV channels and a news agency quoted BJP candidate Varun Gandhi as saying at an election meeting: “This is not a hand [Congress symbol], it is the power of lotus [BJP symbol]. It will cut the head off …” He concluded with “Jai Shri Ram,” reported an Indian paper.

Varun has also been quoted as saying: “If anyone raises a finger towards Hindus, or if someone thinks that Hindus are weak and leaderless; if someone thinks that these leaders lick our boots for votes; if anyone raises a finger towards Hindus; then I swear on Gita that I will cut that hand.”

Varun Gandhi is the grandson of Indira Gandhi through her son Sanjay and his animal rights activist wife Maneka.  His "defection" to the BJP from the Congress party that has been dominated by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty since the time of India's first prime minister a few years ago was seen as a major coup.  

Though the Election Commission has censured Varun for the alleged hate speech, he claims that the video recording of the event that is in circulation has been doctored.  

Varun is a minor figure in Indian politics.  But this speech suggests he may have bigger ambitions.  Whether doctored or not, the controversial speech places the Congress and the other parties in the position of "defending Muslims" against the aggressive brand of Hindu jingoism favored by the more extreme elements of the BJP — a situation that underscores the BJP argument that the Congress is the party of "Muslim appeasement" and could pay dividends at the polls.