Varun Gandhi battles to reclaim his late father's heritage (Election Special)
Young BJP leader Varun Gandhi focuses on positive politics, but doesn't promise to turn Uttar Pradesh's Sultanpur "into Paris" as he traverses the parliamentary constituency that was once represented by his late father Sanjay Gandhi.
"I have never been a votary of caste and community politics and I will continue to focus on positive politics and how best we as law makers can address the issues of the people," Varun Gandhi, 34, told IANS in a brief interview.
Sanjay Gandhi, younger son of late prime minister Indira Gandhi, had contested from Sultanpur in 1977 when Amethi-Sultanpur was one seat and he lost. He won in 1980 but died shortly thereafter in the crash in New Delhi of a small plane he was piloting.
Varun Gandhi is listened to with rapt attention wherever he goes as he tries to shrug off the Gandhi surname and says he has come to the area to set a new trend where the politicians are forced to think of the people not as a vote bank but as family.
He tells people at another meeting that he has no qualms in admitting that things will not change overnight.
"Main ye vaada nahin kar sakta ki rato raat Sultanpur ko Paris bana doonga (I cannot promise that I can turn Sultanpur into Paris overnight)," he says with a smile.
At another place, the womenfolk, gathered in large numbers chatter endlessly on his fair complexion.
Varun faces stiff competition from Pawan Pandey (Bahujan Samaj Party), Shakeel Ahmed (Samajwadi Party) and Amita Singh of the Congress. Singh is wife of Sanjay Singh, a former ruler of the area and now a Rajya Sabha MP from Assam. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has fielded Shailendra Pratap Singh from here, which is also the native place of AAP's national spokesman Sanjay Singh.
Varun denies talks of a planned strategy of the BJP leadership to polarize votes in the Gandhi pocket borough by sending him to Sultanpur from Pilibhit.
"Decision to come here was my personal one as I wanted to create a political constituency for myself and what best place to start that than the constituency of my late father," he explains.
In Biraita village of Jaysinghpur, Varun harps about holistic development.
Gandhi faces an uphill task as the people get ready to vote May 7.
All the five assembly segments in Sultanpur - Isauli, Lambhua, Sultanpur, Kadipur and Sadar - are currently held by the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP).
In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP finished a poor fifth with mere 40,000 votes. The workers, however, this time are hoping for a turnaround in the party's electoral fortunes.
A burly moustached village elder in Athaisi hamlet said: "We have suffered a lot by getting swayed by names and lineages but now the young lot thinks differently."
"Bhaiyya, the youngsters want better roads, more electricity and jobs," he points out while reminding his neighbours how his class 12 son "knows all about the world through a laptop given to him by the SP government."
A woman, attending to a newly-born calf, walks away in a huff and says that all this talk of development was hogwash if the women and the girls were not safe. She charges the state government with failing to provide adequate security and check law and order.
A few days back, villagers said that Varun Gandhi visited them and assured them of "doing his bit if elected".
"Bauaa kah raha tha ki u ke haath mein kauno jaadu ki chadi na hai par kahe ki poore prayaas karenge (The young boy was saying he will not make false promises and that he does not have a magic wand but assured to do his best for development)," said a tea seller.
The BJP has won from here in 1991, 1996 and 1998 though it has been contesting from here from the first general elections in 1951. Between 1951 and 1971, the party fought on its erstwhile name of Jana Sangh. In 1999, the party did not field anyone and in 2004 and 2009 the party slipped to the fourth position.
Its vote share also slipped to a mere 6.34 percent in the last Lok Sabha election.
(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 03-05-2014)