Union Minister Maneka Gandhi, who has been in more than one controversy over her statements this election season, said she doesn't think of the lotus - her party's symbol- when she does her duties as an elected representative. Speaking to NDTV on campaign trail in Uttar Pradesh's Sultanpur from where she is contesting, Ms Gandhi said her "vote for her or else..." remark was taken "totally out of context".
Last month, Ms Gandhi was heavily criticised for her comments that Muslims who did not vote for her should not expect any help from her. At an election rally in Sultanpur, she said her win was certain "with or without" the support of Muslims, but if she found out an area had not voted for her, it would leave a bitter taste. "Then when a Muslim comes to me for work, I think let it be," she said.
The Election Commission had issued a show-cause notice on those comments and had banned her for campaigning for 48 hours.
"Wherever I've gone, I've always thought of all religions and castes as one. When we do work, we don't think of the lotus," Ms Gandhi told NDTV on a bumpy car ride in the Uttar Pradesh town. "But in the end, when it is time for voting and people say that they will not vote for me just because they don't want to vote for the lotus symbol, I feel very bad."
"It was totally out of context. You heard my speech. It was in a very polite manner," she added.
Weeks later, Ms Gandhi was sent another notice by the election body for saying that there is a plan to grade villages according to the number of votes for her and prioritise development work accordingly.
Earlier in April, Maneka Gandhi waded into controversy when she described Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati as a "merchant of tickets" and accused her of taking Rs. 15-20 crore from those who wanted to be chosen as her party's candidates.
In a straight swap, Maneka Gandhi is contesting from her son Varun Gandhi's Sultanpur constituency while he is the BJP candidate in Pilibhit.
The Union Minister refused to react to her son's recent statement that the Uttar Pradesh alliance leaders are "Pakistanis".
Sultanpur will be going to polls in the sixth phase of Lok Sabha elections on May 12. The results of the seven-phase national election will be announced on May 23.
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