A member of India's most famous political family is being held by
police, charged with whipping up anti-Muslim sentiment ahead of
Varun Gandhi surrendered to authorities before a throng of supporters
who clashed with police outside the courthouse in Pilibhit, in Uttar
Pradesh state, in what critics called well-orchestrated political
The 29-year-old Gandhi told reporters he was ready to go to jail and
fight for his principles, though he has denied mocking and threatening
Muslims during campaign speeches.
Gandhi is a descendent of India's first prime minister, the
independence hero Jawaharlal Nehru, and the grandson of slain Indian
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. But he is not on good terms with much of
the family and has been running as an opposition candidate for
parliament with the ultra-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
India's election commission ruled his remarks were criminally offensive
and said he should not be a candidate. But the BJP is backing Gandhi,
apparently believing the controversy will strike a positive chord with
Congress Party officials say they feel pity for Gandhi, who is also a nephew of party boss Sonia Gandhi.
Police outside the courthouse fired tear gas and used bamboo sticks to repel demonstrators, who hurled stones.
Officials say Varun Gandhi will likely remain in custody until a bail hearing on Monday.
India's national elections, the world's largest exercise in democracy, begin in less than three weeks.