When you speak of conflicting cousins in politics, Maharashtra will always think of Uddhav and Raj Thackeray. But a shift of gaze to the national scene brings two young parliamentarians to mind — one the scion of the Congress party and a future PM candidate, the other a mercurial neta and the youngest national secretary of the BJP. It’s notable that there’s rarely been a direct confrontation between Rahul Gandhi and Varun Gandhi. All that might soon change.
According to senior BJP leaders from Uttar Pradesh, the youngest Gandhi has made up his mind to contest the 2014 general elections from Sultanpur constituency that shares its border with Amethi represented by Rahul Gandhi, and is adjacent to Sonia Gandhi’s constituency Raebareli. Over the past month and a half, BJP workers have been surveying the province to determine the support base for the party and whether or not to field Varun from this seat.
However, sources say the Pilibhit MP is clear in his mind about Sultanpur and there is hardly any contender to challenge his claim. Dr Laxmikant Vajpayee, the UP BJP chief, says that the party would support Varun Gandhi irrespective of his choice. “He’s a national leader and the party is sure that if Varun Gandhi contests from Sultanpur, he will definitely win it. However, right now no decision has been taken and it’s too early to make any conjectures,” he said.
On the other hand, former district BJP chief of Sultanpur Dr Mahendra Pratap Singh didn’t hesitate in affirming that Varun Gandhi would contest from here. “He’s a very popular leader, and he emotionally connects with Sultanpur because his father (Sanjay Gandhi) had worked in this area. If Varun contests we will certainly come out victorious,” he said.
According to sources in BJP, Varun has expressed to party leaders on various occasions that he’s planning to change his seat from Pilibhit to Sultanpur. Confirming that they have been unflagging in the area, Karuna Shankar Dwivedi, the present BJP district chief, maintained that he and his supporters would help Varun win the election if the latter decided to contest from the constituency.
The reason BJP can’t be hubristic about the situation is because the last leader from the party to have won the seat was Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1998, during his second term as prime minister. In the previous three Lok Sabha polls, the electorate has twice voted in BSP and once Congress. The current MP from Sultanpur, Dr Sanjay Singh, is a staunch Sonia Gandhi loyalist. However, BJP claims this won’t affect Varun’s prospects.
“Varun Gandhi wants to contest from here citing the reason that it's his father’s karmabhoomi. I would like to clarify that Varun should stand from Amethi against Rahul, because it’s Amethi that’s Sanjay Gandhi’s karmabhoomi, not Sultanpur. I have been hearing that BJP is not interested in bringing him to Sultanpur, but Varun is adamant on contesting from here,” said Singh. Attempts to contact Varun Gandhi for his comment proved unsuccessful.