Varun Gandhi returns to Pilibhit on Saturday for the first time since the controversy over his inflammatory speeches earlier in the month arose. BJP leaders are intent on making it a grand event, with senior leader Kalraj Mishra already at the spot.
Varun’s decision on Friday to withdraw his plea for anticipatory bail and thereby dare the Uttar Pradesh police to arrest him, shows that both he and the BJP are keen to extract electoral advantage from the uproar he has caused.
Though the BJP is keeping Varun’s Saturday plans a closely guarded secret, there are strong chances that he will seek arrest, either by surrendering at the district court or at the Barkheda police station where the FIR against him was lodged.
The state government, however, is equally keen not to allow Varun to don the mantle of hero or martyr by arresting him.
The police are likely to take the plea that since investigations into the case against Varun have not been completed, he cannot be arrested as yet.
“He wants to get the sympathy vote of hardline Hindus, but we know how to deal with it,” said a senior officer in Pilibhit, requesting anonymity. A large crowd of BJP workers will welcome Varun when he arrives at Lalauri Khera, a small town on the border of Bareilly and Pilibhit districts. It will accompany him thereafter wherever he goes.
“Lots of people want to welcome Varun," said BJP’s Pilibhit district president Yogendra Singh Gangwar. “We are trying to keep the numbers down as a large crowd would amount to violating the model code of conduct.”
“We have not received any information yet about Varun Gandhi’s visit,” said Ajay Singh Chauhan, Pilibhit district magistrate. “Our job is just to ensure that the guidelines of the election commission are followed.”
“Whatever Varun made do, the likelihood of his immediate arrest is remote,” said a top police officer.