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Varun Gandhi denies anti-Muslim hate speech
NEW DELHI |
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Varun Gandhi, great-grandson of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and scion of a family dynasty, said on Wednesday he was a victim of political conspiracy over allegations he made inflammatory comments against Muslims.
Police in Uttar Pradesh are investigating Gandhi in a row that could embarrass his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), already suffering from internal squabbles over campaign strategy just weeks before a general election.
Gandhi, who is also the nephew of Congress party chief, Sonia Gandhi, said footage of him at a rally had been doctored but he would not say by whom.
Local media played clips in which he is alleged to have said he would cut off the hands of Muslims who threatened Hindus and compared a rival Muslim candidate to Osama bin Laden.
"That is a conspiracy, that is not my voice, those are not my words," Gandhi told Times Now news channel in New Delhi.
"They have taken my speech, they have twisted it so badly that it makes me look like I'm attacking Muslims."
Unlike most politicians from India's powerful Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, Varun Gandhi joined the opposition BJP and not the centre-left Congress party that has largely governed India since independence.
"The party has an ideology of protecting Hindus. I have tried to protect the weaker sections of Hindus from being targeted...," he told CNN-IBN news channel.
"It's a very sad day in Indian politics when anyone who speaks for Hindus is branded communal."
As his party gears up for an election in April and May, the allegations could damage the BJP, which has in the past been accused of stoking tensions to pander to its large Hindu vote base.
Many polls show the BJP-led alliance trailing the Congress-led ruling coalition
The row is a reminder of old tensions between secular India's majority Hindus and minority Muslims, who make up around 13 percent of the 1.1 billion-plus population.
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