The recent acquittal of BJP leader Varun Gandhi in hate speech cases has now acquired a political colour. Union minister and senior Congress leader Beni Prasad Verma has alleged that Mr Gandhi was exonerated in the cases due to a tacit understanding with the Samajwadi Party-led government in Uttar Pradesh. Interestingly, the state government is yet to challenge the acquittal in court.
Mr Gandhi, who was recently appointed as a General Secretary in the BJP, had been accused of making hate speeches while campaigning for his first election to the Lok Sabhha from Pilibhit constituency in UP. More than a dozen witnesses in the case had turned hostile during the trial and Mr Gandhi was eventually cleared by the courts earlier this month.
Initially, there were reports that the Akhilesh Yadav government was preparing to move court against the relief granted to Mr Gandhi. But top sources have told NDTV that the government is still consulting legal experts on the issue and a decision on challenging the acquittal is yet to be taken.
Sources in the Samajwadi Party, though, say that a decision on the issue could well be a political one. Some in the SP are reportedly of the view that challenging Mr Gandhi's acquittal could give him the status of a martyr, which the latter could exploit to strengthen his position in the party and among voters. More importantly, it could project him as a Hindutva mascot that could polarise the upper-caste voters in the BJP's favour. The ruling SP had successfully managed to wean away the support of the community from Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in its massive win in last year's assembly elections. And, Akhilesh Yadav would certainly not to want to risk the loss of those crucial votes to the BJP just months away from the general elections.
The court's verdict has re-energised Mr Gandhi's career - evident in his new position in the party that saw a massive overhaul with Rajnath Singh back at the BJP's helm of affairs in the run up to 2014.