Varun Gandhi: Raising the right questions, subtly

Varun Gandhi: Raising the right questions in a subtle voice

A rebel within

After the prison experience in 2008, the Pilibhit MP placed himself as a moderate politician, engaging in writing columns and speaking assignments. Credit: DH Photo

Feroze Gandhi stood up in Lok Sabha on 16 December 1957 to say, “a mutiny in my mind has compelled me to raise this debate. When things of such magnitude, as I shall describe to you later, occur, silence becomes a crime...”

It seems Feroze Varun Gandhi, the BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh’s Pilibhit, too believes in the spirit of what his grandfather said which led to the unravelling of the country’s first financial scam and subsequent resignation of the then finance minister T T Krishnamachari in connection with the contentious Rs 1.25 crore investment by LIC in HC Mundhra’s firm.

Feroze was 46 when he took on his party government led by father-in-law Jawaharlal Nehru. Varun, who lost his father Sanjay Gandhi in a plane crash when he was three-month-old, is 41 now when he puts his party and its government in a spot.

Soft-spoken and subtle but not known to mince words always, the past couple of months saw Varun tweeting and sending letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on farmers' protest against the three farm laws.

Also Read | Varun Gandhi asks PM Modi to accept farmers' MSP demand

Among the tweets was the one that came days after the Lakhimpur Kheri incident. It was the video of a 1980-speech of A B Vajpayee warning his grandmother and the then prime minister Indira Gandhi for not heeding to farmers’ demands and captioned it with a subtle message, “wise words from a big-hearted leader.” Though there was no response from BJP, the message was delivered.

Later Varun wrote to Modi congratulating him for his “large-heartedness” for repealing farm laws but referred to the deaths of over 700 farmers, which he believes could have been avoided if the decision was taken earlier.

One may think it is the growing distance between the leadership and Varun that has led to the latest round of, what his detractors call rebellion. His actions led to rumours — from leaving BJP to joining parties like Trinamool Congress or Samajwadi Party. Varun is yet to reveal his cards.

Farmers have always been one of his core interest areas. While speaking about his book ‘Rural Manifesto’, he told DH in November 2018, “I took a conscious decision never to draw a parliamentary salary and donate it to a family of a farmer who has committed suicide. As time went by, I felt that this was a small step though in the right direction. It was very limited in its scale. I felt we needed to do something bigger.”

Varun, who is BSc (Honours) in Economics from London School of Economics, has always been in the limelight for right and wrong reasons and his surname, which he is proud of, ensured it. At 19 years, he toured with his mother Maneka Gandhi during her election campaign in Pilibhit and was an instant hit. He was a much sought-after leader five years later.

In 2004, he joined the BJP but could not contest the Lok Sabha polls as he was one year short of 25, a legal requirement to contest Lok Sabha or Assembly elections. Five years later, he entered Parliament in style from Pilibhit. He shifted to Sultanpur in the 2014 polls and returned to Pilibhit in 2019.

Also Read | Take action against MoS Ajay Mishra: Varun Gandhi to Modi

But 2009 was not without controversy. His alleged hate speech landed him in trouble and was jailed for some time but later acquitted for want of evidence.

The experience in prison had an impact on him. Thus started a second phase as he placed himself as a moderate politician, engaging in writing columns and speaking assignments. He is now in a third phase where he wants to be a ground-level politician, they say.

Coming out of his mother’s shadow, Varun became the youngest BJP national secretary when appointed in 2008 and the youngest general secretary in 2012 but was overlooked for a seat in the Modi Cabinet. Recently, he was shunted out of the national executive.

As general secretary in charge of West Bengal, Varun had also famously gone against the BJP narrative on Modi and said the latter’s rallies were not attracting crowds there. Many say things have not been great with Modi and Varun since then. Curiously, posters of Varun as future UP chief minister also appeared in Allahabad when the BJP national executive was meeting there.

Again, BJP leaders claim that the post could not have gone to him as the saffron party was fighting the Gandhi dynasty and that it could not have entertained another Gandhi. But in the 2000s, he was the BJP’s Gandhi, which the party showcased against the Congress’ Gandhi family.

If one knows him mostly as a Gandhi scion and a politician, Varun is not just all about politics. A poet with two books to his credit, a voluminous non-fiction ‘Rural Manifesto’, and numerous articles, he is also a writer with a wide interest in arts, philosophy, economic theory, world cinema, jazz, chess, tennis and squash.

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