| What’s in a name' Feroze Varun Gandhi
New Delhi, May 19: For a Gandhi in politics, it’s always been the surname that has mattered. But try telling that to Feroze Varun Gandhi.
The son of Maneka Gandhi, set to enter the Lok Sabha via the Vidisha by-election ' a circumstance not entirely unconnected with his surname ' doesn’t want to be called “Varun” any more.
“Call me Feroze,” he told this correspondent. “That’s the name I like to be addressed with. All my close friends, relatives call me that. It just so happens that when I joined the BJP, I earned (the name) ‘Varun’, which is my middle name.”
The BJP, looking to embarrass and challenge the Congress’s “first family”, has got the surname it wanted, but “Feroze” is jolly well going to have the name of his choice.
The original Feroze Gandhi ' Feroze Varun’s grandfather and the husband of Indira Gandhi ' was forced to make the opposite change, though, after having problems with his original surname.
Before Indira Priyadarshani Nehru could marry Feroze Gandhy, a Parsi, the groom had to be persuaded by Mahatma Gandhi to alter his surname to “Gandhi”.
Indira, Nehru-Gandhi old-timers said, used to address her grandson as “Varun” ' but perhaps that’s because she didn’t want to take her late husband’s name.
Jawaharlal Nehru’s son-in-law had quickly built a reputation for youthful dynamism, his image made more romantic by an untimely death.
The timing of Varun’s emergence as “Feroze Gandhi” is, therefore, laced with political significance.
It comes at a time when the central BJP leadership has in “principle” cleared his candidature for Vidisha, a parliamentary seat recently vacated by Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan.
BJP national president Rajnath Singh almost confirmed Feroze’s (or, perhaps, Varun’s) nomination saying: “He would be fielded from somewhere soon.”
BJP sources said some party leaders, such as L.K. Advani, are keen to appoint him a national general secretary, a post that normally requires considerable experience, proven track record and approval from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Varun, 26 years old, lacks all three.
Advani, however, reckons that Feroze’s elevation as BJP national general secretary could make him a match for his more illustrious cousin Rahul, being groomed as the future leader of the Congress.
So if Rahul becomes AICC general secretary in charge of the party’s frontal organisations, who better than another Gandhi to be projected as the BJP’s youth icon'
Indian politics’ near obsession with the Gandhi surname remains a legacy from the past. It was perhaps from this sense of legacy that Priyanka’s son was named “Rehan Rajiv Gandhi Vadra” ' the honour subsequently conferred on daughter Meira, too.
Priyanka’s husband Robert Vadra has sometimes been caught off his guard. At a recent TV interview, he sought to correct a reporter when he asked a question about Priyanka Gandhi’s future, saying she was “Priyanka Vadra”.
He should try telling that to a Congressman. Party members of every hue are unanimous that Priyanka is and should be addressed as “Gandhi”.
“Feroze” and “Varun” mayn’t be as far apart in significance as “Gandhi” and “Vadra” but, to at least one Gandhi on the opposite side of the political divide, they aren’t quite the same either.