Varun Gandhi's acquittal acquires political overtones

With Muslim leaders of the ruling Samajwadi Party clamouring for ‘stern punishment’ to BJP MP Varun Gandhi for his alleged hate speech during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, it is feared that the issue may acquire political overtones following his acquittal in both the cases by a district court in Pilibhit.

Senior minister and prominent Muslim leader of the SP Azam Khan on Wednesday justified the state government’s decision to challenge Varun’s acquittal in the higher court saying that latter’s remarks on the Muslim community were ‘objectionable’ and ‘inflammatory’.
“He should not be allowed to go unpunished,” Khan said.

Another senior Muslim leader said the revelations that the prosecution witnesses, including several government officials and policemen, turned hostile and retracted their statements during the trial, could send a wrong message to the Muslim vote bank of the party.
Union minister Beni Prasad Verma had already alleged that the SP regime had helped Varun in getting reprieve from the court.

According to sources, the officials here were shocked to find out that the then district magistrate of Pilibhit Mahendra Agarwal, who also was the returning officer and had got a case registered against Varun, retracted his statement in the court.

The then sub-divisional magistrate Jameer Alam and the police officers, who were the prosecution witnesses, also retracted their earlier statements leaving the court with no option but to acquit the Bharatiya Janata Party leader.

Varun had been booked for allegedly giving “inflammatory speech” at Pilibhit during the last general elections.

The then Mayawati regime had even slapped the National Security Act (NSA) on him. However, the Uttar Pradesh High Court had later quashed it.

The ruling party feels the opposition parties, namely the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party, may try to gain ‘political mileage’ out of the issue by accusing the government of going soft on the saffron leader, said an official here.

“Further the cases against Varun will keep him bogged down. It may go against the Bhartiya Janata Party which is likely to entrust him with crucial electoral responsibilities,” said another Samajwadi Party leader.

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