By-poll fiasco: Will Varun Gandhi help improve BJP's dwindling popularity graph in UP?

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Does Varun has the credentials of representing the BJP in UP?
Bhartiya Janata Party's (BJP) poor show in Uttar Pradesh bye elections has once again given a chance to Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi to raise the pitch for giving a bigger role in Uttar Pradesh politics to her son, Varun Gandhi.

While talking to media persons in New Delhi, the Pilibhit MP on Wednesday suggested the party to consider bringing her son, who is an MP from Sultanpur, at centrestage in UP politics. This indicates that Maneka Gandhi wants the party leadership to project him as a haywire BJP's next chief ministerial candidate.

When asked about the absence of big faces in the party's campaign, including her son Varun, for by-polls she smiled and said, "Ok then, maybe we should bring him back!"

It must be noted that the BJP lost 8 out of 11 assembly seats, which were vacated by sitting BJP MLAs who were elected as MPs in Lok Sabha polls, in the September 13 by-polls.

Why Maneka reiterating her previous statement?

Barely four months after registering a resounding victory in Lok Sabha election, the formidable force of BJP had to swallow its pride in the by polls. The saffron party even failed to retain most of the seats where it was looking infallible some times back.

Party's agenda of 'love jihad', which earned party's MP Yogi Adityanath so much of media attention, too fizzled out as the voters went with the incumbent government of the State and not with the BJP. This has dented the credibility of the state leadership in the party and given a chance to the others to start looking for other alternatives.

It seems the party's poor show in the Hindi heartland has given a chance to Maneka to pitch for a rejig in the state leadership ahead of 2017 Assembly polls in UP. And that is why Maneka feels his presence will certainly help turning party's fortunes in the state where BJP desperately wants to come to power.

Does Varun has the credentials of representing the BJP in UP?

Varun, 34, is a popular face amongst youths in UP. The former BJP general secretary is an avid orator and undoubtedly BJP's poster boy and star campaigner. The tag of being a 'Gandhi scion' also helps Varun to translate the support into votes in his favour.

Varun being BJP's one of the most popular youth faces enjoys popularity amongst youngsters and hence his name will bring the party's prospects.

The Gandhi scion is also getting support from a quarter which has soon after by poll defeat came out on the street carrying posters which said, "Varun lao, UP bachao" (Bring Varun, Save UP).

But Varun, had in 2009, landed into a controversy, after a case was filed against him for allegedly making a provocative speech about Muslims, at a public meeting in Pilibhit.

The BJP leader was booked under various sections of the IPC and the People's Representation Act for promoting enmity and acts prejudicial against communal harmony.

The first FIR was lodged on March 17, 2009, at Barkhera police station for an inflammatory speech during a public meeting on March 8, 2009. The then Mayawati government in UP had invoked National Security Act (NSA) against him who had to spend some time in Etah jail. Later, in May 2009, the NSA was revoked on the direction of the Supreme Court. He was later acquitted by the court in the matter.

Hence, Varun's polarising image will hamper the party's credentials if he is projected as party's chief ministerial candidate. The leader in some parts of UP is considered as no different than other hardcore Hindutva leaders in the BJP.

Such moves may encourage infighting within UP BJP

Earlier too the state BJP leaders had rejected Maneka's suggestion of handing over the party's responsibility on Varun's young shoulders claiming it as her 'personal opinion'. Thus, this reiteration of Maneka's previous suggestion will further promote the infighting between party leaders.

There is already a long list of contenders in Uttar Pradesh for CM's post in the BJP and this will once again not go down easily with the senior party leaders. It is not a trend in the BJP when a leader openly sees pitching for his/her son as party's CM candidate as these decisions are taken by party's core group.

Varun has all the qualities of leading the party in Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, but there are several other leaders in the queue who are consistently working for bringing the party back in power in country's most populous state. Maneka's move could be considered as an attempt to sideline the efforts of senior state unit leaders.

This will unnecessarily divert the party's attention towards such irrelevant subjects. At a time when the party is facing a tough task of restoring people's faith in it such issues will give it opponents a chance to become stronger. These are not apt times for raising issues like these. At present the party's first and foremost target must be to introspect what exactly went wrong with the party. The prime focus of entire party must be on strengthening its grass roots.

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