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‘Should Hands be Cut Off?’ BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi On Congress’ Ajay Rai

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Senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi raised eyebrows today as he contradicted his own party on Narendra Modi’s Congress rival in Varanasi, Ajay Rai, against whom an FIR or First Information Report has been filed for poll violation.

Mr. Rai was seen wearing his party’s symbol, the hand, while standing in the voting queue.

Though the BJP demanded strict action against the Congress candidate, Mr. Joshi described Mr. Rai’s alleged violation as a minor issue. “It is not a big deal. Everyone takes their hand into the poll booth, should they cut it off?” questioned the BJP veteran, who contested from Kanpur after making way for Mr. Modi in Varanasi, which he had won in 2009.

Mr. Rai is the third prominent candidate in Varanasi, where the main contest is seen to be between Mr. Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, and Arvind Kejriwal, the chief of the Aam Aadmi Party.

On April 30, the Commission had ordered an FIR or First Information Report against Mr. Modi for flashing his party’s symbol, the lotus, and making a speech near the booth in Gandhinagar where he voted.

The BJP, in the middle of a bitter confrontation with the Election Commission over the refusal of permission for Mr. Modi’s rally in Varanasi last week, used the Ajay Rai controversy to deliver a caustic message.

“We would like the Election Commission to ensure that when there is a violation of Model Code of Conduct, it must be properly take into the logical conclusion. So that there is no impression that different parties are being treated differently, that is our great agony,” said senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Mr. Rai was defensive. “I didn’t flash it like others did,” he said, not naming Mr. Modi, “the symbol was pinned to the kurta I wore yesterday and it stayed on. I wore it very normally.”

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