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Tweet on RIL stings BJP

New Delhi, Sept. 9: Varun Gandhi has embarrassed his party by targeting both the Opposition and the Centre in tweets referring to the CAG report on purported favour shown to Reliance Industries (RIL) over an oil-and-gas-block contract.

BJP sources suggested Varun may have posted the tweets to recast his image, damaged by his anti-Muslim speech during the 2009 general election campaign, by using issues with a “contemporary ring, especially with young people”.

“Government and Opposition both silent, Wonder why?” Varun tweeted this evening, quoting the CAG to allege a “clear violation” of government contract terms by Reliance in the Krishna Godavari basin. The CAG has slammed the petroleum ministry for failing to take back 25 per cent of the acreage of the KG-D6 oil and gas block from RIL after it reneged on its drilling obligations.

Varun wrote that RIL had directly notified oil and gas discoveries without informing the Centre, and alleged the contracts were handed out at “unreasonable” rates after eliminating competition.

Efforts to reach Varun hit a wall. An aide said: “Please text your questions and he’ll get back.” But the Pilibhit MP did not answer the messages; nor were his tweets updated after the initial flurry of posts.

A source close to Varun, however, said: “What’s wrong if a right-thinking young Indian calls for probity and integrity in public life? The intention was not to take on the BJP.”

A party insider said Varun had tried hard to use the Anna Hazare agitation to his advantage at a time the BJP was groping for a strategy to respond to it. He was the first to offer to place Hazare’s “Jan Lokpal Bill” in Parliament as a private member’s bill. He said Hazare and his team could use his official residence to hold the fast if police denied them a venue.

He even visited the Ramlila Maidan and blended in, unlike the BJP’s Ananth Kumar and Gopinath Munde who arrived on the penultimate day to be booed off the venue.

A BJP leader said Varun had scoured the social network sites to see how his Parliament speech during the Lokpal bill debate was being received in comparison with cousin Rahul Gandhi’s intervention during Zero Hour a day earlier. “The netizens hailed Varun as mature and independent-minded. Their comments on Rahul were a bit unkind,” the source said.

With Varun’s latest tweets becoming a talking point, a BJP functionary referred to a June 18 news conference by Murli Manohar Joshi attacking the oil ministry over the KG basin contracts. “It shows the BJP was certainly not silent on it,” he said.

Joshi had quoted from leaked portions of the CAG report, which had then not been tabled in Parliament. The BJP did not react yesterday after the report’s tabling.

A joint statement from Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj today merely said the CAG reports on the KG basin and Air India “give rise to a serious apprehension of corruption and loss of public revenue”. These issues, they said, merited “serious examination”.

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