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Away from the UP Poll Spotlight, Varun Gandhi Hopes a Childhood Lesson Will Work for Him in Politics

By: Pallavi Ghosh

CNN-News18

Last Updated: January 20, 2022, 21:22 IST

Though he is one of the younger faces from the party and is the MP from Pilibhit, Varun Gandhi has not found a place in the star campaigners list of the BJP for the February-March Uttar Pradesh polls. (File pic/Reuters)

Though he is one of the younger faces from the party and is the MP from Pilibhit, Varun Gandhi has not found a place in the star campaigners list of the BJP for the February-March Uttar Pradesh polls. (File pic/Reuters)

Recovering from a bout of Covid, Varun, the astute but independent politician, is waiting for his time, say those who are close to him.

It was roughly a year ago when I had gone to meet Varun Gandhi at his Jor Bagh residence in Delhi. As he escorted me out later, I noticed several black cats around. They came running to him just as a neighbour, ‘Panditji’, too arrived on the scene. The neighbour asked Varun not to feed the black cats as ‘kali billi’ is considered inauspicious by certain beliefs. Varun responded, saying, “Panditji, many of us are black cats for some and yet the universe takes care of us…We need to extend the circle of kindness…”

Questioning tradition and social norms is perhaps a trait Feroze Varun Gandhi has picked up from his mother Maneka Gandhi and also grandmother Indira Gandhi.

Cut to his days in British School in Delhi when he, through a resolution, ensured that vegetarian food was served in the canteen as he doesn’t eat meat. Or in 2000, when he contested as an independent candidate in the University of London and won with a slim margin.

Those who know Varun also know that he has this streak of being independent and taking on the establishment. This begins to make sense in the present context where over the past few months, he has taken a stand non-aligned with the party line. Whether it’s his position on the now-cancelled farm laws as well as minimum support price (MSP) issue, or unemployment which at times seems similar to that of his cousins Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Rahul Gandhi, the uneasiness between Varun and the BJP is now glaring. That is evident because though he is one of the younger faces from the party and is the MP from Pilibhit, Varun and his mother have not found a place in the star campaigners list of the BJP for the February-March Uttar Pradesh polls.

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Sources say that the Bharatiya Janata Party is not comfortable with his articles, which seemingly take on his own government and, hence, feels safer to keep him away. More importantly, those who are close to him say that he is not used to the ‘ji huzoori’ (yes man) style and is often brusque in his interactions with top leaders. Says a BJP leader, “After all, he is a Gandhi and hence that trait of arrogance cannot be missed.”

But Varun Gandhi is very different from his cousins. Academically inclined, he loves the pen. In fact, he had once told me that his most cherished treasure is a pen his ‘daadi’ Indira Gandhi gifted him, he loves writing poems and books, and has an impressive lineup.

But what is Varun up to now? Recovering from a bout of Covid, Varun, the astute but independent politician, is waiting for his time, say those who are close to him. His calculation is that by raising people’s issues he can be seen as a champion of their rights and, even if it’s not in sync with his party lines always, he will be viewed as someone who stood up for their cause.

It seems pretty clear now that the BJP may not want to give a ticket to him for the next Lok Sabha polls. In all the cabinet reshuffles, neither Maneka nor Varun was accommodated. But sources close to Varun say he is not yet speaking to any other party. He is biding his time and a lot will depend on the UP poll results. A lot will also depend on the situation of, say, the Trinamool Congress and the Congress.

The fact is, not many parties, especially those having a single-level control structure, can accept dissent or a different, independent point of view. Even Varun’s biggest critics accept that he would be an asset, given his knowledge and oration. The thing is, would that be enough?

Varun once narrated an anecdote to me that as a young child he fed the many birds in his then home in Maharani Bagh. He wondered whether the birds were even aware that he would religiously take care of them. Once a stray dog attacked Varun, and the birds swooped down from the mulberry tree they resided on and chased away the small canine. Varun managed to escape, and since then he learnt the lesson that when you take care of helpless beings, the universe comes to look after you. A lesson perhaps he expects to work for him even now.

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first published:January 20, 2022, 21:19 IST
last updated:January 20, 2022, 21:22 IST