Varun Gandhi: Boon Or Bane for The BJP

Indian politics and the Nehru-Gandhi family can’t be separated from each other. Some people feel that both are complementary. As far as the supporters and ideologues of the Congress are concerned, they feel that the Congress party is not capable of remaining organized and extending its base without the patronage and leadership of the Nehru-Gandhi family. This may be a matter of relief for the Congressmen but the anti-Congress elements, specially the principal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) usually accuse that “the Congress is the slave of the Nehru-Gandhi family. This family has made the Congress party hostage. Congress encourages dynasty politics and the leaders of the Congress party maintain their political career by indulging the sycophancy of the Nehru-Gandhi family.”

These accusations by the opposition are not a part of any healthy and democratic criticism. In fact this is the result of frustration and jealousy of the opposition, particularly the BJP. If the Nehru-Gandhi family was worthy of criticism, then why has the BJP itself given space to the members of that very family (Maneka Gandhi, widow of Late Sanjai Gandhi & Varun Gandhi, his son) in the party. What led the BJP to adopt this strategy that on one side you target the Nehru-Gandhi family and on the other, you use the members of the same family as star campaigners? This strategy of the BJP is either a failed attempt to cut ‘iron with iron’ or the party itself seems to be unsuccessfully trying to gain from the attraction and glamour of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

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If we try to see from the above prism, we see that Maneka Gandhi has been a member of the BJP for two decades. She was also a Minister in the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. The reason behind her being made Minister by the BJP was not any additional political competence or qualification found in her. Indeed it was the honour by the BJP leaders to the ‘rebel’ daughter-in-law of the Nehru-Gandhi family. With the passage of time, her son Varun Gandhi too became mature. This handsome, attractive and dexterous in conversation youth seemed to be talented like his father, the late Sanjay Gandhi. But the purification by her mother made him an adversary of his own paternal family. Things didn’t settle here, in fact to insult the Congress Party, particularly Sonia Gandhi; Maneka taught that lesson to her son, which nobody in the family had ever imagined. And that was the lesson of extreme Hindutva under the patronage of the BJP. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological source of the BJP, and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) too supported Varun on this ‘venomous’ communal path.

While Sonia Gandhi was giving the lessons based on secularism to her son Rahul Gandhi, Maneka Gandhi too saw something in her son which she felt would support her political career. The way in which Maneka Gandhi left her *Pilibhit* constituency for her son and herself became a candidate from the neighbouring constituency of *Aonla*, it became clear that on the lines of constituencies of *Raebareli* and *Amethi*, she too wants to secure both *Pilibhit & Aonla* constituencies. But during the 2009 general elections, both Maneka & Varun got an estimate of the ground reality. While Varun Gandhi was contesting the first election of his life, Maneka Gandhi was contesting the Aonla constituency for the first time. When Varun Gandhi felt that his first election should not become a danger to his political life, he delivered such an objectionable, controversial and communal speech during the election campaign, which the BJP leaders too usually avoid publicly. To ensure his victory by polarizing the Hindu votes in his favour, Varun in his public meetings vowed all the Hindus would get together. During the same speech, he made dangerous and objectionable comments against Muslims.

Consequently Varun was imprisoned under the National Security Act by the Uttar Pradesh government on the charge of spreading communal tension. As the elections were not concluded, so the BJP had to face a difficult time. The party leadership, in order to maintain its secular vote bank intact (if it had), was trying to distance itself from the controversial Varun speech, and the party started attempts to make him a hero and star campaigner for the party. The RSS & the VHP also patted Varun’s back. The Election Commission of India was accused of being corrupt as he just advised the BJP, not to make Varun a candidate. Instead of following the advice, the party president Rajnath Singh went to meet Varun Gandhi in jail. This meeting sent straight signals to the voters that though the party leaders might be trying to distance themselves from Varun’s venomous speech, actually this is the double character of the party. When Varun was freed from jail after about a month as a result of relief given by the Supreme Court, he firstly went to the VHP office in Delhi and had closed door meetings.

During the elections, Varun Gandhi went to many constituencies as a star campaigner of the BJP. Figures tell that the BJP lost most of the seats on which Varun Gandhi campaigned for the BJP candidates. Trying to counter Sonia Gandhi & Rahul Gandhi, Maneka & Varun had to give full time in their own constituencies. Besides this, they had to give a communal touch to the campaign, and then only this mother-son duo was able to win their seats. Contrary to this Sonia Gandhi & Rahul Gandhi, fully confident of their victory, were campaigning across the country. Post election figures reveal that most of the candidates for whom Rahul Gandhi campaigned, won.

The new Lok Sabha is now in place. BJP is defeated badly and the Congress is way ahead. Now within the BJP, there is debate on whether Varun proved to be profitable or detrimental. Varun Gandhi is being condemned in open voices within the BJP. Varun repeatedly flayed the accusations by saying that the CD is doctored and his voice is not in it. According to a forensic test report, the speech in the CD is of Varun Gandhi. Unfortunately, even after the report, Maneka Gandhi is still falsifying it with pertness and favouring Varun by saying that it is not his voice. The entire country believes that this objectionable, unconstitutional and uncivilized speech was delivered by Varun himself.

A large group of the BJP leaders say the Varun controversy and other factors are responsible for the party’s defeat. It seems that Varun is still in favour of following the path of aggressive Hindutva. It is speculated that Maneka is trying to make way for Varun for the post of the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Recently Varun Gandhi visited the RSS office in Lucknow & there he had long secret talks with the Sangh leaders. Now it remains to be seen whether the BJP, ever critical of the Nehru-Gandhi family, would gain something by keeping Varun with it, or it would remain at the losing end. For now, the mention of Varun among the reasons of defeat is not a good sign for him. In future, it will become clear whether Varun proves to be a boon or a bane for the BJP.

Tanveer Jafri is an award-winning journalist and peace activist, based in India, covering communal harmony and social activities.