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UP elections 2017: Varun Gandhi conspicuous by his absence at BJP MPs’ meet with Amit Shah

(FILES) In this file picture taken on November 20, 2004 Grandson of late former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member Varun Gandhi delivers his speech during a rally to protest against the arrest of Hindu religious leader Jayendra Saraswathi in New Delhi. The grandson of late Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi came under fire on March 17, 2009 for allegedly inciting violence against Muslims in comments that highlighted the country's religious tensions. Varun Gandhi, who is campaigning for next month's general elections, reportedly told a rally that his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would "cut the head of Muslims." AFP PHOTO/Tekee TANWAR (Photo credit should read TEKEE TANWAR/AFP/Getty Images)
(FILES) In this file picture taken on November 20, 2004 Grandson of late former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member Varun Gandhi delivers his speech during a rally to protest against the arrest of Hindu religious leader Jayendra Saraswathi in New Delhi. The grandson of late Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi came under fire on March 17, 2009 for allegedly inciting violence against Muslims in comments that highlighted the country's religious tensions. Varun Gandhi, who is campaigning for next month's general elections, reportedly told a rally that his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would "cut the head of Muslims." AFP PHOTO/Tekee TANWAR (Photo credit should read TEKEE TANWAR/AFP/Getty Images)

New Delhi: A war of words has erupted in the BJP over projecting Varun Gandhi as the party’s face in the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh after he skipped a meeting called by party chief Amit Shah of MPs from the state.

Gandhi, who was in Allahabad to attend the BJP’s national executive, was conspicuous by his absence at the meeting of Lok Sabha MPs, which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi among others.

When asked about it, party’s state unit president Keshav Prasad Maurya, who is himself an MP from Phulpur, said, “We have more than 70 MPs in the state and out of them at least 13 could not take part. This was not due to any resentment on their part but because of their personal reasons.” He said the meeting went off peacefully, without any tensions and was attended by Modi and also a number of Union ministers.

A second-term MP, Gandhi’s absence at the meeting had given rise to speculation that he was miffed at the reluctance of the party’s central leadership to grant him a prominent role in the UP assembly polls due in less than a year.

In 2013, the then party president had appointed Gandhi as one of the national general secretaries, making him the youngest person to hold the post. However, when Shah took over and Singh moved to the Union cabinet, Gandhi was stripped off the post.

Meanwhile, firebrand MP from Bihar Shatrughan Sinha, who had reportedly voiced his support for Gandhi at the national executive, today defended his stand when a number of party colleagues criticised him.

“I stand by what I had said at the national executive. And let me make it clear, I never said it should only be Gandhi. My point is, name anybody, be it Gandhi, or Yogi Adityanath, Rajnath Singh or even Keshav Maurya. But please give the people an idea of who could be the chief minister if the party came to power in UP,” he told reporters.

He was replying to queries about the statement of Allahabad MP Shyama Charan Gupta, who had reacted strongly to reports about the former’s vocal stance saying “he is an MP from Bihar. Who is he to comment on UP politics”.

Claiming he was “not even aware” that Gupta was a BJP MP, Sinha said, “Everybody has a right to voice his or her opinion in a democracy. I exercised my democratic right. Now let others do the same.”

Sinha has been particularly vocal about BJP’s strategy in the Bihar assembly polls last year after the party suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Grand Alliance of JDU, RJD and Congress.

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