In his strongest statement supporting Varun Gandhi till date, BJP’s prime-ministerial candidate LK Advani said on Wednesday that his detention under the National Security Act reminded him of how "great nationalists like Jayaprakash Narayan, Morarji Desai and Atal Bihari Vajpayee were booked under MISA" during the Emergency.
<b1>He also warned Varun-baiters that voters would reward him during the polls. "They should not forget that those who were jailed during the Emergency won handsomely because people do not like candidates to be jailed during election time," he said.
Congress leader Ashwani Kumar brushed off the "out-of-context" comparison as an attempt "to lionise an individual guilty of blatantly communal speeches”.
The irony of Advani’s statement couldn’t have been lost on those who know what happened during the Emergency. It was Varun’s father Sanjay Gandhi, after all, at whose behest leaders such as Jayaprakash Narayan and Vajpayee were put behind bars.
Sanjay was the prime mover behind the Emergency and related excesses. There are clear signs that the BJP has stepped up its ongoing support for Varun Gandhi. The party does see possibilities of Hindu-Muslim polarisation in UP with his detention, which may save it from a drubbing in the state. Moreover, his being in jail scotches the possibility of him harming the party.
The BJP’s strategy on Varun has been a tightrope walk: back him to attempt a Hindu-Muslim vote polarisation in UP, and also ensure that he does not hog so much limelight that it diverts attention from the party and its leader.
The result: while the party has been stoutly defending him on his alleged hate speeches, it has excluded him from its list of star campaigners in MP and Chhattisgarh.