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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2678

Set back for Varun Gandhi…..

By Atul Cowshish - Syndicate Features

If media reports are to be believed the Bharatiya Janata Party has gone against the recommendation of some of its senior leaders in refusing to nominate Feroze Varun Gandhi as the party candidate in the Vidisha Lok Sabha bye-election in Madhya Pradesh. Among those who had lent strong support to the young Gandhi—or ‘Nehru-Gandhi’-- was the ‘Loh Purush’ L. K. Advani. Even the ‘Vikas Purush’-cum-Bhishpitamah’ of the party, Atal Behari Vajpayee, was initially backed Varun’s candidacy, though as usual, he did a flip-flop and withdrew his support to Maneka Gandhi’s son in favour of a candidate supported by the chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan as well as a minister in the Madhya Pradesh cabinet who happens to be his nephew.

For Varun Gandhi the ticket denial despite intense lobbying is a blow to his ambition to enter parliament and herald his arrival as an important ‘gen next’ BJP ‘neta’. Ironically, it was the ‘gen next’ of the BJP leaders who vehemently opposed the nomination of Varun Gandhi from Vidisha, a ‘safe’ BJP constituency.

Of course, the future of a politician, young or old, does not depend on a ‘setback’ flowing from his or her failure to get party’s nomination from a ‘safe’ seat. Besides, being still in his 20s means that Varun Gandhi has a very long innings ahead. There are certain aspects of this episode may have a bearing on his future in the BJP.

First of all it remains a mystery how the BJP of all the parties is so besotted with a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family. It does not matter whether this section includes men like Advani or lesser souls in the party of Ram Bhakts and self-proclaimed super-patriots and minority-baiters. The BJP and the Sangh Parivar to which it belongs have always thrived on reviling the Nehru-Gandhi family. Many Indians who share that outlook find it uncomfortable to see the party touting a ‘scion’ of the ‘First Family’ it hates so much as its next generation leader, if not a mascot for the youth.

If the BJP thinks that the Nehru-Gandhi name is indeed a vote-catcher then what explains its relentless personalised campaign against the family? Or did it decide against nominating Varun Gandhi from Vidisha because of the fear that the electorate in that BJP stronghold would revolt against the party for having chosen the son of Sanjay Gandhi, the prime target of BJP attack while he was alive and even after his tragic death in a plane crash?

While ‘Hindutva’ is the ideological pivot around which the BJP revolves, it is the Nehru-Gandhi name that the BJP, from its Jana Sangh origins, and its entire pantheon of leadership has hated with passion. While those who have heard him when he was a young and emerging party leader do not remember Vajpayee showing any deference to Jawaharlal Nehru, it is only in recent years that one has heard that Vajpayee carried no malevolence towards India’s first prime minister and the real fountain-head of the Nehru-Gandhi ‘dynasty’.

But there is no reason to disbelieve that the BJP has rid itself of universal abhorrence for Varun Gandhi’s father, Sanjay Gandhi who was vilified by the BJP (and the Jana Sangh in its earlier ‘avtaar’) from the moment he stepped into adulthood, first for his allegedly reckless ways, later for his failed car-making (Maruti) venture reportedly paid for by the state exchequer, and finally as a boorish tyrant during the Emergency.

Varun Gandhi’s entry into the BJP fold might have looked inevitable given the fact that his mother, Maneka Gandhi, estranged from the other members of the Nehru-Gandhi family, had chosen to align with the BJP to further her political ambitions. She did not think the Congress party had any place for her because she had been openly critical of her mother-in-law Indira Gandhi and had never hidden her animus towards her sister-in-law Sonia Gandhi.

Maneka Gandhi had obviously decided to ‘forgive and forget’ all the nasty things she had heard for years from the mouths of the Parivar members during the years her husband was alive and in later years too because the alternative to her appeared to be even more unbearable—a pariah among members of what is arguably India’s top political dynasty. If she had any political ambition it could be met only outside the Congress party, which was and is under the firm grip of ‘dynasty’ members she does not get along with.

Varun Gandhi would have been too young to remember or carry the bitterness of the acrimonious days in the Nehru-Gandhi family that his mother had lived through. It has also been reported that there is no malignancy in Varun Gandhi’s equation with the other Nehru-Gandhis. That may or may not be true. And it is rather doubtful if in the present situation he stood a chance of sharing the political legacy of his ancestors if he had joined the Congress party.

As a BJP member how far can he expect to go? His genes would command him to rise high and pretty soon. The Vidisha ‘setback’ is one signal that does not seem to suggest that he can expect to achieve that goal in the BJP, not in the near future. He and his mother, who perhaps has a lot of say in shaping his political future, refuse to see that the biggest consideration for pulling him into the BJP is his surname, not his so-called charisma or oratorical skills.

It is all very well to say that the sins of the father need not visit the son or vice versa. But if the rank and file of the BJP as well as large sections of its top echelons are not ready to publicly acknowledge that they have reoriented their views on Sanjay Gandhi how can they be expected to accord Varun his ‘due’ place in the party?

Perhaps many among the BJP find that Varun Gandhi has inherited some of the less popular characteristics of his parents. If he is propelled into the big league at such a young age he might push ahead of other younger leaders to take the top honours and make ‘the party with a difference’ even less different from its main political rival. Varun Gandhi might like to look at a cousin of his father’s who left the Congress with great fanfare and is now in virtual political wilderness.

A pronounced tide in his favour would not be visible unless the BJP shows clearly that it has forgiven and forgotten certain events of the past, like Maneka Ganadhi apparently has. Despite all the U-turns that the party has taken in the past for the sake of sticking to power, disowning its intense opposition to the Emergency and disclaiming all the words spoken against one the most prominent symbols of that era might not come easily to the BJP, not when it ratings are going southwards.

- Syndicate Features -

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