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First cousins? duel in UP polls

Indira Gandhi?s two grandsons are poised for a head-to-head confrontation during the UP elections, Writes Jatin Gandhi.

india Updated: Sep 23, 2006 06:01 IST

Indira Gandhi’s two grandsons are poised for a head-to-head confrontation during the forthcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. The elections will see Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and his younger cousin, the BJP’s Feroze Varun Gandhi, campaign against each other’s parties.

The elections are expected to be held early next year — dates are still to be announced by the Election Commission, though the Congress campaign has officially begun and the BJP is expected to get its campaign off the ground from Ayodhya early next month.

Rahul Gandhi, 36, is a first-time Lok Sabha member from Amethi in UP while Feroze Varun Gandhi, his 25-year-old cousin, is a member of the Bhartiya Janata Party. This is not the first time that the two will campaign for opposing political forces, but this is the first time that they will meet head-to-head.

BJP General Secretary Arun Jaitley confirms: “Varun will be utilised extensively for campaign.” He has been asked to concentrate on campaigning in the Rohelkhand belt, party sources say.

Significantly, the Rohelkhand belt with 49 assembly segments includes Rae Bareli and Amethi, the parliamentary constituencies of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, respectively. Rahul is being projected as the face of the Congress in these elections and is expected to campaign extensively in the same belt.

“He will attend all the big rallies across the state with the Congress president,” says a Congress MP who is part of the core team assisting Rahul in UP.

Rahul had led his mother Sonia Gandhi’s campaign in the Rae Bareli Lok Sabha by-election earlier this year, a seat she won with a record margin. The win was seen as the Amethi MP’s coming of age and he was praised for his efforts by the party at the Congress Working Committee’s meeting held after the election.

During the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, when Rahul contested his first Lok Sabha election from Amethi, Varun had refused to campaign against him or UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. The UP elections seem to be a break from the past. “I have said I will never campaign against my family but these are local elections. The party rules,” says Varun. “My campaign is never against people but for issues, for the progress of UP and social change,” he adds.

The younger Gandhi’s father Sanjay Gandhi had registered his first Lok Sabha win from Amethi in 1980. After his death in an air crash, his wife Maneka Gandhi parted ways with her mother in-law Indira Gandhi. She contested from Amethi against Rahul’s father Rajiv Gandhi only to lose her deposit. She is now the BJP MP from Philibit.

Varun is a hot contender for the BJP’s ticket to the Vidisha Lok Sabha seat, elections for which are likely to be held soon.

First Published: Sep 23, 2006 06:01 IST