Ignored by Modi and Amit Shah, will Varun Gandhi join Congress?

Swati Chaturvedi
Swati ChaturvediApr 12, 2017 | 12:35

Ignored by Modi and Amit Shah, will Varun Gandhi join Congress?

"There are two kinds of kingdoms. One is Ram Rajya, where the "complete" leader Ram presided over and worked for the people. The other is Mahabharata, where Yudhisthir was a good man, virtuous, but not a fighter. Arjun and Bhim let him rule, but fought for him," this how a senior Congress leader rationalises the way equations will pan out when not if the third Gandhi comes into the Congress fold, as it seems to be inevitable now.


"Rahul Gandhi is no Ram. We need a fighter to lead us into this battle and Varun fits the bill. What is the harm? The cousins have always had a good equation. Let Rahul be first among equals," adds the leader.

And, so it begins. Varun Gandhi's inevitable "ghar wapsi" to the Congress fold despite the obstacles of the "mummy" wars. The Gandhi family soap opera has gripped the country's imagination for years.

Maneka Gandhi is a cabinet minister with the BJP who loathes her sister-in-law and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, yet contrary to expectations the cousins get along.

Varun Gandhi, who refused to campaign for the BJP in the recent UP Assembly elections, has been shunned and marginalised by the all-powerful Narendra Modi and Amit Shah duo.

The rift began when Modi asked Varun to contest against Rahul from Amethi and he flatly refused. Authoritative sources say that Modi was "extremely insistent and went to the extent of saying he does not like no for an answer".

After the mandate of 2014, Modi deputed Shah to offer Varun a junior ministry. Sources say this was to ensure that his mother's claim on a cabinet could be sabotaged as the Bjp does not allow two members of a family to hold office.

But will his mother allow him the space to make his own decisions? (Credit: PTI photo)

Varun declined, saying he could not take his mother's place. Maneka got a ministry, but that was the end of even pretence in the sidelining of Varun.

Varun did have a meteoric rise in the BJP. He was made much of and indulged by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pramod Mahajan. His other mentors included Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari who are also now fighting for space in the Modi-Shah dominated party.

Varun was the youngest-ever national secretary between 2008 and 2011. He was made a BJP general secretary in 2011-2015, made in-charge of states of West Bengal, Assam and the Northeast.

This rise of a 28-year-old in this spectacular fashion did cause a lot of jealousy and rancour in the cadre-based BJP, where leaders who were decades older seethed with frustration and found the rise of a "Gandhi" unpalatable in the BJP. These included Arun Jaitley and Modi.

Varun found no place in Shah's team and was insulted and added to the "star campaigners" list at number 49. He refused to campaign.

Seeing his space shrink in the BJP, Varun tried desperately to reinvent himself from the infamous hate speech he had made in 2009, and for which he was jailed. He pleaded his own case in the Pilibhit court and within a year and nine months was acquitted as forensic analysis found that the speech had been tampered with.


Shunned by his party and pushed to a corner, Varun is on a youth outreach programme, visiting campuses across the country and talking to students.

He has also written two books of poetry — The Otherness of Self and Stillness. Varun has two more coming out this year — another book of his poetry and a data-driven work on developmental economics titled, What is the Economic Future of the Indian Village.

He currently writes a syndicated column which appears in Hindustan, Amar Ujala and a host of other regional papers.

He also writes regular columns for the The Hindu, The Economic Times, Hindustan Times, Mail Today, Deccan Chronicle. Varun has taken care to develop his independent line while still in the BJP, modelled on Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was often called the "right man in the wrong party".

While earlier the party leaders were indulgent of his idiosyncratic take on the core issues of the BJP, he has got no such quarter from Modi and Shah. When his name surfaced in a recent defence scandal, the BJP made it clear that it would not defend him and he was left alone to fight the charges.

In fact, it is believed that Varun's "intimate pictures" (when he was 20 years old) were leaked to the media by a BJP leader.

While Varun has tried with frenetic energy to reinvent himself, curiously the RSS has still not quite given up on him.

Authoritative sources say RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat visited him at his home in August last year and offered him a chance in UP while making it clear that the election would be fought on "hard Hindutva" line.

So, while Varun's name is anathema to Modi and Shah with their adamant demand that he attack his family, the RSS has not quite resolved its Gandhi dilemma.

The final question — where does the prodigy go from here?

Varun clearly has no future in the BJP as long as Modi and Shah call the shots. But will his mother allow him the space to make his own decisions?

My sources say that some kind of marriage with the Congress is clearly on the cards as with only two years to go for the 2019 elections, the 36-year-old Gandhi is fast running out of options.

As for the elephant in the room — what happens to his siblings?

The Congress is trying to grope its way to the answer.

At this point in time, Varun desperately needs the Congress and is in regular touch with his two older cousins. The Congress might also benefit from the entry of the other Gandhi.

Till then watch this space. We are always the one to let you know first.

(Editor's note: The headline was revised after the piece was published.)

Last updated: April 14, 2017 | 11:59
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