BJP MP Varun Gandhi — who had made headlines with his sharply critical tweets about the death of farmers in UP’s Lakhimpur Khiri — today brushed off his exclusion from the BJP’s 80-member national executive. “I have not attended a single NEC for the last five years. I do not think I was on it,” the 41-year-old who has been with the party for 17 years, was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
The names of Mr Gandhi and his mother Maneka Gandhi did not feature in the list made public by the BJP today.
There were two other omissions — Subramanian Swamy, who was seen as being critical of the party of late and former Union minister Birender Singh, who was also seen as sympathetic towards the farmers’ protests against the Centre’s farm laws.
Many Union Ministers and veteran leaders like LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi have made It to the list.
Varun Gandhi was the only BJP leader to speak up on the Lakhimpur Kheri issue, in which the son of a BJP Union Minister has been accused of murder. Ashish Mishra, the son of BJP’s junior home minister Ajay Mishra, has not been arrested. Earlier today, the Uttar Pradesh police summoned him for questioning.
Mr Gandhi not only demanded “accountability” in the issue, he also wrote to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation and Rs 1 crore compensation for the families of the farmers who died.
“Protestors cannot be silenced through murder. There has to be accountability for the innocent blood of farmers that has been spilled and justice must be delivered before a message of arrogance and cruelty enters the minds of every farmer,” he tweeted, posting a video of the horrific moment an SUV, coming from behind at a high speed, ploughed through farmers holding a peaceful protest.
While a section of BJP leaders called the omission of him and Maneka Gandhi a “routine rejig”, others admitted that he had upset the senior leadership of the party with his criticism.
“He projected as if the entire fault lies at the doorsteps of the leaders. We are awaiting the investigation report and believe that incident was unfortunate. He should have been patient at a time when the entire opposition is targeting the party,” ANI quoted a senior BJP leader as saying.
“There are other senior leaders from UP who have become part of the council in their place. There are at least ten. They must have lost their utility or relevance. We have seen the statements of the son on various occasions. It is after all the party’s decision,” ANI quoted another leader from Uttar Pradesh as saying.
Both Ajay Mishra and his son have denied that they were present at the spot, though the minister told NDTV that the SUV belonged to his family. Amid opposition demands that he step down, Mr Mishra met his boss, Union Home Minister Amit Shah yesterday. Government sources have ruled out any resignation.