By all accounts, BJP MP Varun Gandhi is on his way out of the party. In that event, he could either 're-align with his 'parental party' or would find a ‘third-alternative', write Deepak K Upreti and Dipak Kumar Jha
The buzz is growing louder that Varun Gandhi is counting his days in the BJP. Except for Subramanian Swamy, no other BJP leader has chastised his own party the way Varun has done over the last two years. But worse. He sounds so much like his cousin Rahul Gandhi. The same outrage against the politics of communalism and caste, the same criticism of the role of media, and the same concerns for the farmers and unemployed youth. The same outpouring of emotion over the future of the nation.
Incidentally, he is also heard saying in one of the viral videos that he has nothing against Congress or Nehru ji.
An ‘unconventional politician’ and three-time BJP member of parliament, Varun Gandhi is now looking beyond the ‘self-limiting barriers’ of the saffron party.
By all accounts, Varun is on his way out. In that event, he could either ‘re-align with his ‘parental party’ or would find a ‘third-alternative’.
When contacted by The Pioneer on his public stand on various issues going contrary to the central dispensation, the dissident MP said “I believe, I joined public life out of a sense of duty, I believe am doing all that could benefit average Indian and change the routine political discourse around us....”.
The countdown for the 42-year-old, the son of former central minister Maneka Gandi and the late Sanjay Gandhi, has begun. The BJP has completely marginalized him after pitting him and his mother against the Gandhi family of the Congress.
But as the Modi- led BJP captured Uttar Pradesh, the BJP cold-shouldered the MP from Pilibhit who at one time was seen as a possible Chief Ministerial candidate for the electorally biggest states in the country.
Appointed party secretary under Nitin Gadkari and then the youngest General secretary under the presidentship of Rajnath Singh, at the age of 33, Varun looked to fly high when the regime of Amit Shah suddenly clipped his wings and dropped him as General Secretary.
Varun did not seem to fit in the strict command and control of Modi-Shah BJP that is way different from the Vajpayee-Advani structure carrying imprints of ‘liberal shades’.
The last straw for Varun has been the exit of his mother from the Modi cabinet of 2019 and the dropping of both from the BJP’s National Executive.
The BJP MP has since then been making no-holds-barred strikes at the Modi-regime policies but avoided any personal attacks on the BJP leaders.
The ruling party has also remained reconciled to the “uneasy peace” with an unwritten understanding, so far, seems to be guiding both sides.
Since 2019, the BJP MP has taken a completely contrarian view on all the economic and political policies, including on the alleged religious polarization across the country.
Restless and ambitious, Varun says “ Look at my track record and tell me, if I am not speaking for people in any of my writings or actions”.
And something none can hold against him is the fact that he is the only MP who is not drawing his salary and donating it to “farmers on the verge of suicide on account of their debt” while a majority of other MPs seek higher salaries, more perks, and privileges.
In Uttar Pradesh, the Pilibhit MP from 2015 to 2017 worked out a plan towards an “individual solution” for the debt-ridden farmers, particularly those on the verge of suicide.
In his book ‘Rural Manifesto’, Varun pointed out economic markers driving farmers to suicide in UP.
The crowd-funding efforts, he says, made 8000 to 10000 farmers debt free in 20 districts of UP.
He is the only MP from National Democratic Alliance who supported ‘Jan Lokpal bill and sat at ‘Ram Lila Maidan’ to back it in 2011.
He also backed the ‘Kisan Andolan’, condemned police attacks on farmers, and supported the victims of Lakhimpur Kheri violence in UP.
The MP also points to the fact he has espoused the cause of Independent judiciary vis-vis ‘committed judiciary’ to allow free speech and ethos.
He went on to criticize the Modi dispensation for leaving two crore government jobs vacant when the unemployment, post-Covid, was at its peak. Thereafter, he also presented a private Member bill ‘Bharosa : Bhartiya Rojgar Sanhita’ for a mandatory and time-bound filling of government jobs in the country.
Even before 2019, he had taken a non-party stance but the party re-nominated him and his mother Maneka Gandhi and even allowed them to swap constituencies.
The BJP bosses have ignored his potshots, but it is unlikely that this time Varun will escape the guillotine of the BJP parliamentary board when it comes to picking up candidates for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are not known to forgive and forget. Varun cannot retrace his steps. He has to move forward, on a path that may unite the Gandhi family and see him emerging as the poster boy of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh in the 2024 polls. Who knows, he may even explore other options if winnability was his sole concern. But one thing is clear: Varun’s days in the BJP are numbered.
Rahul Gandhi recently ducked a question on the prospect of Varun joining the Congress and said only party president M Mallikarjun Kharge was competent to talk on the subject. But few will believe that Kharge will have any say in a matter which involved such sensitive family issues.
It is believed that Priyanka could become the catalyst for Varun’s departure from the BJP and entry into Congress. And if this happens, it would also unify the Nehru-Gandhi family after almost 40 years when the Sonia Gandhi-Maneka Gandhi tiff split the Congress’ first family.
“Varun has a significant following in Pilibhit-Sultanpur-Lakhimpur Khiri and its surrounding areas. If he joins the Congress, this could be a big boost to Congress which is struggling to regain its foothold in UP beyond the family boroughs of Amethi and Raebareli,” said Pushpendra, former Professor and Dean at Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS).
Pusphendra further explained how a new political environment will be created in case Varun joins the Congress. “In politics, the word ‘mahaul’ has a lot of significance. As the political climate seems to change over Congress’ Yatra, Varun’s joining may both affect and impact. People from other parties in the State like SP and BSP (which seems to fade away now) may follow the suit and joins the winds of change,” the political analyst said.
Earlier it was speculated that Sonia and Rahul were not keen to allow another Gandhi to join the family enterprise, especially one with much more ambition and drive than Rahul. But after the stupendous success of the Bharat jodo yatra, Rahul seems to be in complete control of things in Congress. He has no reason to feel wary of anyone with or outside the party.
Significantly, on the 76th birth anniversary of Sanjay Gandhi, the Congress gave much more space to their former dynamic leader which was never done in three decades.
Varun seems determined to create a situation that leads to his exit from the BJP. This reflects in his speeches. Look at the following:” The politics of our country should be to unite the country, not the politics of creating a civil war. We should not do politics that suppress people, rather we should do politics that uplift people…..TV and newspapers are only doing Hindu-Muslim, Hindu-Muslim, and caste politics. Divide brothers and kill brothers. We will not let these politics happen,” Varun said recently.
His statement is being compared with that of Rahul’s speech in Delhi during the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
Interestingly, almost ‘caged’ in the BJP, Varun has flourished with his pen.
Dwelling on rural distress, Varun has written 1000 pages of’ Rural Manifesto - Realizing India’s future through her villages’ , which is “taught in economic courses” of some of the universities.
Next month, he is bringing out his other 1100 pages volume on ‘Urbanization- the Indian Metropolis’.
‘The otherness of the self’ and ‘ Stillness’ are his two early books on poetry by Varun.
In the run-up to 2024, the Gandhi scion is, understandably, all set to end his existential dilemma and the BJP too may reciprocate in equal measure.
(The Writers is special correspondent of The Pioneer)