frantic and valiant efforts, 38-year-old Varun Gandhi will not be the BJP’s
face for the UP elections. If any doubts remained it was firmly crushed by BJP
President Amit Shah who sternly warned Varun from holding meetings in any part
of UP except his parliamentary constituency.
In retaliation to Shah’s snub Gandhi stormed off and boycotted the dinner the BJP chief hosted after the Allahabad national executive a few days ago. This further earned him Shah’s ire. The BJP president promptly called up Prime Minister Narendra Modi, describing Varun as “absolutely indisciplined” like his mother, the firebrand Gandhi bahu Maneka.
BJP insiders point out that Maneka’s public and intemperate outburst against her cabinet colleague Prakash Javadekar was occasioned by the way her son’s career was being culled rather than wayward wildlife species.
Mother-Son Duo in the Eye of the Storm
for Varun and Maneka they have lost much traction in the BJP with the ruling
trinity of Modi, Shah and Arun Jaitley holding a visceral antipathy towards
them. While earlier Varun was mollycoddled and made much off by the BJP old
guard, the Gandhi surname is seen as a liability, not a prized asset in the new
and muscular BJP.
Shah has complete disdain for the Gandhi name and makes no attempt to conceal it. Varun has had earlier run-ins with Jaitley and is also paying the price for not being sufficiently deferential towards Modi.
To be fair
to Varun, he’s always maintained that he would not attack Sonia Gandhi and
cousins Rahul and Priyanka in public. While Vajpayee understood this, and in
his own thoughtful and genteel way, appreciated this family deference, Modi and
Shah have no use for it. They would prefer Varun to target Sonia and Rahul much
in the manner in which Subramanian Swamy does.
Is Adityanath Preferred?
So, despite Varun having topped all intra-party surveys as the leader with the most recall, Shah and Modi have called a halt to his ambitions of being the putative chief ministerial face for UP. In any case, Yogi Adityanath, who makes no bones of his communal bias, has also laid claim to CM candidature, and, unlike Varun, Shah and Modi may not be able to say no to his bid.
With Kairana as the UP BJP’s clarion call, it’s more or less clear that the UP electoral campaign will not be devoid of attempts to polarise the electorate. And who better than the mahant of the Goraknath math to lead such a campaign than Adityanath.
While all Varun can do now is seethe, it is quite intriguing that a Congress worker perceived to be close to him has demanded that he be brought back to the party fold so that the road to “paving the way for unity among the Gandhis is laid.”
No Longer a Poster Boy
Gandhi may not be BJP’s candidate as UP CM, owing to his run-ins with Arun Jaitley
and his mother’s war of words with Prakash Javadekar.
- Varun is
not a favourite among BJP’s senior leadership, particularly Shah-Modi duo, especially
after his refusal to take on the Gandhis publicly.
- With the BJP engineering the Kairana controversy, the party’s preference could be
Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath.
- As the
party turns a blind eye to his credentials as a politician, Varun is said to
have considered joining Congress.
Will Congress Oblige?
But sources close to Shah claim that not much should be made of Varun’s possible return to the Congress. “Where will he go? They don’t want him. Have no space for him,” the source said, scoffing at the suggestion that Varun could join the Congress.
This has, of course, added to Varun’s discomfiture and predicament. Varun perhaps is a young man in a hurry who has been barred from campaigning across India’s most politically important state, save his Lok Sabha constituency, Sultanpur.
Varun’s stature within the BJP diminished over the last two years to a point where he has mulled the idea of a “ghar wapsi”. Unfortunately for him, two years ago, Priyanka is said to have asked him why he would be interested in switching sides. But increasingly isolated within the BJP now, Varun is learnt to have sent feelers to his estranged family again.
Ghar Waapsi Unlikely
But a ghar waapsi now or in the near future is unlikely because of his association with the BJP. To add to his woes, billboards and hoardings across Lucknow, projecting him as the BJP’s face for UP, has upset Modi and Shah. Varun’s attempt to be in the reckoning appears to have backfired with senior BJP leaders sniggering, “UP chhodiye, inko vanwas milega.”
Varun is said to have dismissed reports that he left Allahabad because he did not want to attend Shah’s dinner. The truth could be somewhat different from what Varun dismissed as a “media fantasy”. But Shah’s dismissal of Varun’s CM candidature certainly isn’t.
(The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist. She can be reached at @bainjal)