Stage set for another Gandhi in House

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Bhopal
  • Published 10.05.06
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Bhopal, May 10: Varun Gandhi has been asked to contest the parliamentary by-election from Vidisha, the seat Shivraj Singh Chauhan vacated today, BJP sources said.

According to the sources, leader of Opposition L.K. Advani has formally asked Varun to contest from Vidisha.

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Chauhan held this seat till now, but he has already won the Budhini Assembly bypoll.

In BJP circles, Varun, the son of Sanjay and Maneka Gandhi, is seen as a potential match for cousin Rahul Gandhi of the Congress. Varun is a member of the BJP national executive.

Varun, several years younger than Rahul, has been waiting to enter the Lok Sabha while giving finishing touches to his doctoral thesis at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

Sources close to Varun feel a seat in the Lok Sabha would put him at par with Rahul as the parliamentary forum would help everyone judge and evaluate the two Gandhis.

Like Rahul, Varun is eyeing the Hindi heartland as a potential battleground.

Apart from Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh is also high on Varun’s list of priorities. He wrote his MPhil dissertation at the London institute on decentralisation, presenting eastern Uttar Pradesh districts as a case study.

The BJP leadership, too, is keen to project him countrywide and is hoping that Varun’s presence would enthuse the party rank and file.

Sources in the BJP said Varun was recently offered a party post but, like Rahul’s refusal to become an AICC general secretary, he politely declined the offer. The time, his camp followers said, was not to get into intrinsic factionalism but to prepare for future challenges.

Madhya Pradesh BJP leaders said Chauhan was keen to field his wife Sadhna from Vidisha but when he raised the subject, Advani said “no”. The BJP veteran reportedly reminded Chauhan that the BJP had already paid a “heavy price” while crowning him chief minister last November ? meaning Uma Bharti’s exit from the party.

Uma walked out of the BJP after it declined to reinstate her as chief minister and floated her own outfit, the Bharatiya Janshakti Party.

Today, Chauhan met Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee in Delhi and submitted his resignation from the Vid- isha parliamentary constituency.

The chief minister is now planning a cabinet reshuffle to appoint heads of government-run corporations in Madhya Pradesh. The occasion would provide him a chance to reward loyalty at all levels.