“Sultanpur me chali andhi, Varun Gandhi..Varun Gandhi”, was the rallying cry among a huge crowd of young BJP enthusiasts in Sultanpur.
Both their numbers and the energy they displayed were impressive. Though it’s not unusual to see that kind high decibel pitch by supporters, the enthusiasm around Gandhi was different.
Firstly, the youth of Sultanpur, living on the borders of Amethi and Raebareli have been politically neglected for a while now. So in Varun Gandhi they see the arrival of the person who can put them on the map. There is also a growing tide of support for the BJP.
A high score from Uttar Pradesh is central to the BJP's path to power.
While there is definite buzz for the BJP and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, the BJP knows that its results will still greatly depend on candidate selection. Varun’s decision to shift to Sultanpur, is a part of the BJP plan in this regard.
The party has only been able to win Sultanpur twice, in the 1990s during its post Ayodhya movement, when Hindutva emotions had submerged all other considerations in the state.
So by all accounts Sultanpur is a challenging seat for Varun. But he is very confident. “I am coming here from Pilibhit (where he won with a record three lakh votes). What would you like to make me win?, he asked his audience. “Five lakhs”, was the thunderous roar. “Five lakhs…don’t let others hearts fail. But I am also happy with four lakhs”, he said.
Gandhi's victory margin will only be known when the results are counted sometime in May but he is a favourite to win.
Because although Varun talks of importance of inclusiveness, and how the blood of all Indians is the same, there are many in the crowd who see him as the biggest Hindutva mascot after Narendra Modi. The chants of “Jai Sri Ram” were intermittently heard en-route to the Amhat airstrip where he had landed to Vijathuadham Hanuman Mandir in Surapura to Kadipur where he addressed the rally.
That kind of branding is also one of the reasons why his supporters have already started talking in terms of his victory margin. But Varun has learned that his portrayal as Hindutva poster boy will not add really strength to the long political career that is ahead of him. So he chooses his words carefully stressing on need of oneness and inclusiveness in the rally, from he effectively launched his own election campaign.
He may be a newcomer to the region but he finds an instant connect with the people because his father used to come here quite often when he made Amethi (then part of Sultanpur district) his constituency. Since his death, Sultanpur couldn’t figure in politically important constituencies even as Amethi and Raebareli kept rising in fame. He thus evokes lot of curiosity. Many at the rally ground and outside see him as the leader who may turn some of their unfulfilled hopes to reality.
“I have come here not like a leader, but as a son. The last time I was here, I came as a child with my mother. I am here now as a young son to reduce your burden. My father had started his political career after taking blessings at this very temple and he had taken a pledge to serve the people of Sultanpur. But he died young. Now that I am grown up and have acquired a responsible position I have come to Sultanpur to fulfil his dreams that died young..…When there can be development in Kannauj, Amethi, Mainpuri and Jaswantnagar (Etawah), why can't the same be done in Sultanpur? I have done so much development in Pilibhit where I visited every village at least thrice after winning the elections”, he says.
A certain lack of concern for his constituency by the incumbent Congress MP Sanjay Singh (now elected Rajya Sabha MP from Assam), the Samajwadi party’s decision to shuffle candidates and a under strength BSP which has not fully recovered from its 2012 defeat, may help Varun.
Sanjay Singh’s wife Amita Singh’s possible nomination as Congress’s candidate will only make the situation worse.
Varun is assuring the people of Sultanpur that he is here to make it his permanent home. There is certainly a desire among a substantive section of party workers in the state, if not among the warring leaders, to see more of him in Hindi heartland politics.
He can make a new beginning from Sultanpur, a district with rich diverse social and political history.
Updated Date: Feb 12, 2014 18:19 PM