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Varun case scrap plan hits hurdle
- UP puts move on hold on minority backlash fears

Lucknow, Nov. 16: The Akhilesh Yadav government appears to have shelved a move to withdraw the criminal cases against BJP lawmaker Varun Gandhi after Muslim leaders warned of a backlash from the community’s voters during the general election.

The Mayawati government had lodged the three cases just before the 2009 general election, two of them relating to Varun’s campaign remarks such as an alleged threat to “cut off the hand” that dared attack Hindus.

The third relates to violence by Varun’s supporters following his arrest. The Pilibhit MP is out on bail and the trials are yet to start two years after the chargesheets were filed.

Sources said Varun and mother Maneka, MP from Aonla, had helped the Samajwadi Party win several Assembly seats in their areas in this year’s elections to spite the BJP, which had denied Varun the party youth wing post he wanted.

Also, other sources suggested, Mulayam Singh Yadav had a soft corner for Varun because the Samajwadi chief and Maneka had once been colleagues in the V.P. Singh-led Janata Dal.

“Netaji (Mulayam) was pained to see Maneka going to see her son in the Etah jail,” a Samajwadi leader said.

The Akhilesh government had started the process for a review of the cases following a written request from Varun in September, but recent media reports on this have attracted adverse reactions from key Muslim leaders, including some within the Samajwadi Party.

A Muslim minister in Akhilesh’s government, who didn’t wish to be named, said: “The move may have as strong a political impact during the 2014 elections as Mulayam Yadav’s friendship with Kalyan Singh had in 2009. Our government should stay away from any such controversy in the run-up to the general election.”

The Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmad Bukhari, expressed his resentment before journalists in Delhi yesterday, saying the move was unfortunate as Varun had made provocative remarks against Muslims.

“I have read about this in newspapers and will write a letter to the chief minister (Akhilesh) soon,” said Bukhari, who is close to the Samajwadis.

State home department sources said the government had decided to go slow on the issue and avoid taking a decision till after the general election.

Reports have quoted Samajwadi general secretary Kamal Farooqui as telling some Muslim leaders yesterday that the state government would not do anything without assessing the possible impact.

The state’s special secretary (home) told The Telegraph that following Varun’s request, the government had sought a report from the Pilibhit district administration on whether the cases could be reviewed. “The report has come in and legal opinion is being sought.”