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Hate Speech Charges Filed Against Nehru Family Member

India's election commission has authorized criminal charges against a member of the country's most prominent political family for making what is termed a hate speech. The controversy appears to have caused a rift in the country's largest opposition party.

A member of India's most prominent political family, the Nehru family, finds himself in an electoral firestorm as he runs for parliament for the main opposition party.

The election commission says it has authorized an arrest warrant for Varun Gandhi after reviewing videotapes of him speaking at recent campaign events.

On the tapes, aired on various TV news channels, Gandhi, speaking in Hindi, appears to make disparaging remarks about Muslim candidates, comparing them to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and saying the power of the lotus, his party's symbol, will "cut the heads of Muslims."

Gandhi contends the recordings were tampered with and says he will elaborate Wednesday at a news conference in New Delhi. He could face arrest under the Indian Penal Code for inflammatory language.

Gandhi is descended from generations of Congress Party leaders. His great-grandfather was Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister. His grandmother, Indira Gandhi and uncle, Rajiv Gandhi, who were both assassinated, were also prime ministers. Rajiv's widow, Sonia Gandhi, is the current head of the Congress Party. Varun is said to be estranged from that branch of the family and is a member of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, known for its nationalist sentiments.

The BJP is trying to widen its appeal to Muslim voters, India's largest minority, in hopes of regaining power from the Congress Party. And some of the party's leaders are trying to distance themselves from Gandhi's alleged comments, saying he should apologize.

Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi is a Muslim and vice president of the BJP.

Naqvi telling reporters that his party condemns the televised comments of Gandhi.

But other BJP officials say since Gandhi is denying he made the remarks no action by the party will be taken against him.

Gandhi is contesting a parliamentary seat in the country's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh.

India is to conduct one month of polling between mid-April and mid-May to elect a new parliament and government.