Bareilly Region Varun out of electoral contest, can BJP still repeat the 2019 clean sweep? - Hindustan Times
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Bareilly Region Varun out of electoral contest, can BJP still repeat the 2019 clean sweep?

By, Lucknow
Apr 08, 2024 08:54 AM IST

Santosh Gangwar has won Bareilly seat 8 times, Pilibhit had been Maneka-Varun Gandhi’s stronghold for more than 3 decades.

Long before the Modi wave captured the people’s imagination in 2014 and BJP was far away from its winning streak and thus almost totally dominating the UP’s electoral spectrum, 2 seats in Rohilkhand already had a long-standing saffron history. They were Bareilly and Pilibhit.

Varun Gandhi (file photo)
Varun Gandhi (file photo)

While in Bareilly it was BJP veteran Santosh Gangwar who kept the lotus blooming in the constituency right from 1989 to 2019. He perfected the BJP’s politics both in the pre-Modi and post-Modi era after 2014. Barring just one occasion in 2009 when the seat was won by Congress’s Pravin Singh Aron, Gangwar never lost a contest in Bareilly.

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Similarly, Pilibhit’s electoral politics has been continuously dominated by Maneka Gandhi and her son Varun for more than three decades. Maneka won the seat first in 1989 on a Janta Dal ticket. She later won twice as an Independent from here and finally moved to BJP in 2004. After her, Varun won the seat on BJP ticket in 2009 and then again in 2019. In 2014, he contested and won from Sultanpur on the BJP ticket. This time BJP has taken a bold but probably a well thought of decision to deny ticket to both Santosh Gangwar and Varun Gandhi in Bareilly and Pilibhit respectively. It has also denied ticket to Sangmitra Maurya in Budaun and fielded a new face. However, unlike Gangwar and Varun, Sangmitra was a new entrant in electoral contest in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Santosh Gangwar has been replaced by former minister Chhatrapal Gangwar, who is an active member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and has blessings of the top brass of the Sangh Parivar.

Chhatrapal has been two times BJP MLA in 2007 and 2017. However, he had to face defeat in the 2022 assembly poll from the Baheri seat of Bareilly. Samajwadi Party’s Ataur Rehman won the seat by 3355 votes. Chhatrapal’s new political journey will not be easy. He is facing opposition from the local party cadres. Things came to such an extent that initially Chhatrapal had to campaign alone without the presence of local office bearers of the party. The issue snowballed into a major controversy when a local BJP leader Deepti Bhardwaj posted on X from her official handle about Chhatrapal campaigning alone.

Annoyed at the indifferent attitude of the local BJP leaders, Chhatrapal even offered to surrender his ticket.

The district, which will go to polls without Maneka Gandhi or Varun Gandhi as a candidate for the first time in 35 years, will witness Prime Minister Narendra Modi hold his first election rally here on April 9.

In Pilibhit, Varun Gandhi, son of Maneka Gandhi has been replaced by Jitin Prasada, minister in the Yogi Adityanath government. This will be the first time since 1989 when Maneka Gandhi or her son Varun would not be contesting from Pilibhit.

Varun has represented Pilibhit twice in Lok Sabha in 2009 and 2019. He had also represented Sultanpur in 2014 when BJP stormed to power at the Centre in the Modi wave under PM Narendra Modi.

“Denying ticket to Varun Gandhi was on expected lines. On several occasions, his statements were against party lines,” said a senior BJP leader not willing to be quoted. For the past couple of years Varun Gandhi had also been keeping away from party meetings and functions.

“It will not be easy for Jitin Gandhi to continue BJP’s winning streak in Pilibhit. Taking along local party cadres and office bearers will be a challenge for the BJP candidate,” he added.

Some 50 kms away from Bareilly is Budaun district and has been Samajwadi Party’s fiefdom since 1996. The party has won the seat six times in a row from 1996 to 2014. BJP had been able to win Budaun Lok Sabha seat only twice - Chinmayanand in 1991 and Sanghmitra in 2019. It was in 2019 that BJP’s Sanghmitra Maurya defeated two-time Samajwadi Party MP Dharmendra Yadav, who is former CM Akhilesh Yadav’s cousin.

Now, BJP’s Durvijay Singh Shakya will challenge SP heavyweight Shivpal Yadav, uncle of former CM Akhilesh Yadav from here. Retaining Budaun will not be easy for the BJP. It was by a narrow margin of 18,454 votes that Sanghmitra was able to defeat Dharmendra Yadav. While Congress candidate Saleem Iqbal Shervani stood third with 51,947 votes.

This time Shivpal Yadav is the INDIA bloc candidate as part of Samajwadi Party and Congress pre-poll alliance.

Out of four districts in Bareilly division, Shahjahanpur, a reserved parliamentary constituency, is the only district where the BJP has repeated its sitting MP Arun Sagar. Shahjahanpur is not a BJP bastion. Satyapal Singh Yadav won the seat for the BJP in 1998 and thereafter Krishna Raj in 2014 and Arun Kumar Sagar in 2019. In fact, Congress has won the seat six times since 1971.

Senior Congress leader Jitendra Prasad won from Shahjahanpur Lok Sabha in 1971, 1980, 1984 and 1999. Jitendra Prasada’s son Jitin Prasada won the seat in 2004 for Congress.

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