Nehru heir under fire for 'anti-Muslim rant'

By Andrew Buncombe,Asia Correspondent
Wednesday 18 March 2009 18:39

A great grandson of India's first prime minister was filmed at an election rally allegedly threatening to cut the throats of Muslims.

Varun Gandhi, a grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru and nephew of Sonia Gandhi, is being investigated by police in the state of Uttar Pradesh after he allegedly said that all Muslims should be sent to Pakistan. He was speaking at a rally for the right-wing, Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for which he is a candidate in upcoming elections.

The recording, made on 6 March, apparently shows Mr Gandhi saying: "All the Hindus stay on this side and send the others to Pakistan." Raising a palm, he said his hand was the "Lotus hand" - a reference to the symbol of the BJP - and said that after the election "it will cut their throats".

Yesterday, Mr Gandhi, 29, claimed the recording of him speaking - posted on the internet - had been deliberately doctored in order to undermine him. "I've been a victim of political conspiracy. This is a vigorous attempt to malign my faith...Those are not my words, this is not my voice," he told local media. "I am a Gandhi, a Hindu and an Indian in equal measure."

Mr Gandhi is the son of Sanjay Gandhi, Indira Gandhi's younger son who was killed in a plane crash. Unlike other members of the family who joined the ruling Congress Party, Varun Gadnhi disowned the dynasty and instead joined the BJP. His cousin, Rahul Gandhi, is a Congress MP and tipped as a future prime minister.

Mr Gandhi's comments come just weeks before India's general election, to be spread over a month. Most polls suggest the Congress will emerge as the party with the most seats.

Muslims make up around 13 per cent of India's vast, 1.1bn population. Communal violence between Hindus and Muslims is not uncommon, especially around elections.

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