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Has Varun averted Gandhi vs Gandhi face-off in Amethi?

columns Updated: May 18, 2013 02:31 IST
Pankaj Vohra
Pankaj Vohra
Hindustan Times
Sanjay Gandhi

In what appears to be a well thought out exercise to reclaim the legacy of his father, late Sanjay Gandhi, BJP general secretary Feroze Varun Gandhi seems to be all set to move closer to Amethi which his father won in 1980 and is now represented by cousin Rahul Gandhi.

Amethi was a part of the Sultanpur district and while addressing a huge gathering in Sultanpur on Thursday, Varun stated, “you had held my father’s hand, now I will hold yours’’ giving rise to speculation that he was determined to contest from there to begin with.

However, many political analysts believe that Indira Gandhi’s youngest grandson was inching towards Amethi and adjoining Sultanpur could at best be only an interim arrangement during the next Lok Sabha polls. It is very obvious that he will not contest from Pilibhit from where he won in 2009 and move to Sultanpur, which is incidentally also near Rae Bareilly which his aunt and Congress president Sonia Gandhi represents, a veteran Congress leader said.

Political analysts are also reading a lot of meaning into the reference to the hand in his speech since “The Hand” happens to be the Congress symbol and the first election won on this symbol from Amethi in the Sultanpur district was by his father in 1980.

It was after his father’s demise in a plane crash in June 1980 that his uncle Rajiv Gandhi won the seat and represented it four times (1980, 1984, 1989 and 1991). Subsequently, Captain Satish Sharma, a close friend of Rajiv, won from there in 1991 by-election and 1996 and Sanjay Singh was victorious in 1998. In 1999, Sonia Gandhi won from Amethi and Rahul succeeded her in 2004 and also won in 2009.

Sources said Varun was not inclined to take on his cousin in an electoral battle from Amethi and thus was averting a Gandhi vs Gandhi fight taking place in this famous constituency once again. Old timers recall that in 1984, Varun’s mother Maneka Gandhi had contested against Rajiv Gandhi and had lost and later in 1989, Rajmohan Gandhi was vanquished from there by Rajiv Gandhi in what was billed as a fight between Jawaharlal Nehru’s grandson vs Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson.

Political circles are now expecting that at least three members of the Nehru-Gandhi family will be contesting the three seats—Rae Bareilly, Amethi and Sultanpur during the 16th Lok Sabha polls. There is speculation in political circles that Indira Gandhi’s only grand daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra may be the Congress nominee from Rae Bareilly with her mother choosing to be in the Rajya Sabha.