He hit the headlines last year for his alleged hate speeches against Muslims but since then Varun Gandhi has changed tack.
He is now talking poverty and development, not just Hindutva.
The change — palpable in recent speeches — was visible on Sunday, when he addressed a packed rally at Jaunpur, with BJP leaders Kesrinath Tripathi, Hriday Narain Dixit and Mahendra Singh on the dais.
However, just hours earlier, the young Gandhi had courted controversy by garlanding a Chandrashekhar Azad statue in Allahabad with shoes on, which the BJP brushed aside as a small error.
The “new” Varun, who is avoiding anti-minority utterances, is moving across UP to prove that he can draw crowds in the off-season like none in the state BJP can.
He talks about the youth — just like his cousin Rahul Gandhi does — and attacks Mayawati for building statues when the poor suffer.
“If the BJP comes to power in UP, all unemployed youth will get a Rs 10 lakh interest free loan,” he said at Jaunpur.
The Hindutva discourse also sprang up: “Ensure that temples that are in a dilapidated state in your locality are repaired and renovated.”
“Wherever you come across cases of cow slaughter, step in,” he said. “Take the local BJP leaders with you.”
Before leaving for Jaunpur, Varun told Hindustan Times that he talked about poverty and not Hindutva in his speeches. Asked about the cow slaughter theme, he said: “That is not a Hindutva issue for me; the Constitution makers also disapproved of it….Governance should go beyond religion and caste issues. My message is pro-poor. There is no hard Hindutva.”
After the Lok Sabha polls, many in the BJP had claimed that his speeches had harmed the party. But many disagree too.
“Those blaming him for the loss should remember that he posted a huge margin when the party did badly in UP,” said a BJP leader.