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Rahul accepts Varun praise

Rae Bareli, April 2: Rahul Gandhi today said Amethi was his “second home”, as he seized on estranged cousin Varun Gandhi’s comments last night to highlight the effort he had put in to develop his heartland constituency.

“What Varun is saying is right. I have a relationship with Amethi. I have worked with a strategy. I have worked for farmers, linking them to world markets by installing food parks, linked all the subdivisions to the national highways. I have thought of development on a long-term basis in Amethi. I am very glad that others are appreciating the work I’ve done in Amethi,” the Congress vice-president said.

At a meeting with teachers and NGOs yesterday, Varun, the BJP candidate from neighbouring Sultanpur, had said: “We need small-scale industries, the kind of self-help groups Rahulji has set up successfully in Amethi, though I haven’t seen his work personally.”

Varun tweeted today that his words “should NOT be seen as an endorsement of any political party or candidate”.

But his comments yesterday appeared to be in keeping with his promise last month when he ruled out any war of sound bites against Rahul. “I will never say a word against Rahul Gandhi. That is not my politics,” he had told journalists.

Varun has been telling voters he is in search of a “new kind of politics beyond caste and religion”, in what appears to be an effort to live down the image of a hothead. Five years ago, he had told a rally he would “cut off the hand” that dared attack Hindus.

Rahul’s comments today came after he was asked if he saw any threat from Smriti Irani, whom the BJP has fielded from Amethi. “Amethi is my second home,” the Congress leader said. “Ask her if she is feeling threatened.”