The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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It runs in the family
- Varun’s turn to play legacy card

Lucknow/New Delhi, April 20: The Gandhi brand name is being flogged in the summer of politics of legacy.

Varun Gandhi today remixed cousin Rahul’s campaign theme song, reminding the country — and probably the BJP — of the sacrifices the Nehru-Gandhis made for the nation.

“My family has played a significant role in the reconstruction of the country. My grandmother and my father sacrificed everything to save the country,” Varun said while campaigning for the BJP in east Uttar Pradesh.

However, if Rahul’s comments on the role the Nehru-Gandhis played in dividing Pakistan pumped up the Congress, Varun’s narration of family history could not but have deflated the BJP somewhat.

The BJP was already finding it hard to keep up the tempo of its attack on Rahul over his statement on the creation of Bangladesh as Atal Bihari Vajpayee had described Indira Gandhi as “Durga” after the 1971 war.

Varun, too, has saddled the party with a similar predicament. “Varun has not taken any liberty with history. So, what is the fuss'” BJP leader Lalji Tandon asked.

“There is no dispute over the fact that Indira Gandhi died for the country,” another leader said, compelled to speak up in favour of a leader the BJP has targeted over the Emergency which the party continues to describe as the “darkest chapter” of Independent India.

Some BJP leaders also sought to give a positive spin, saying the invocation of the family legacy would stand the party in good stead and help it blunt the perceived edge Rahul has gained through his unconventional statements on the Babri Masjid demolition and the partition of Pakistan.

However, Varun may have had a different reason to play the Nehru-Gandhi card in the middle of an election battle in the heartland.

Sources said it could be Varun’s way of reminding the BJP of the arrows in his quiver and how he can have a go at target practice if he feels that he is being sidelined.

Varun’s vibes with the BJP have been uneasy since the party denied him a ticket for the Vidisha Lok Sabha bypoll in Madhya Pradesh. When he was offered a ticket for Uttar Pradesh’s Mirzapur – not as safe a seat as Vidisha -- he refused to accept it. “I am not familiar with that part of Uttar Pradesh. I would like to work for a constituency I am familiar with,” he had said.

Varun has been keeping some distance from party affairs since then. BJP president Rajnath Singh wanted to use Varun, a member of the national executive of the party, extensively on the campaign but the Nehru-Gandhi scion has been confining himself to select pockets.

Varun was brought into the BJP by the late Pramod Mahajan to counter the Congress’s Gandhi factor. The son of Maneka and Sanjay Gandhi had then set an unpublicised condition: that he would not utter a word against the family.

The “Quiet Gandhi” has been sticking to that theme. While campaigning in Pilibhit – his mother’s constituency -- last week, Varun had desisted from saying anything against the Gandhi family. “I cannot use foul words against a family from whom I have inherited the Gandhi surname,” he said.

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