Mother-son seat swap may go awry; Maneka’s remarks likely to hurt her

Maneka Gandhi appears to have made things difficult for herself, in Sultanpur, by making controversial statements. Photo: PTI

The BJP leadership must be ruing its decision of swapping Lok Sabha tickets of Maneka Gandhi and her son Varun.

In a last minute move Maneka was shifted from Pilibhit to Sultanpur, the constituency her son won in 2014. In turn Varun has been given Pilibhit which he represented in 2009.

Pilibhit has been a stronghold of mother and son duo. A section of BJP claimed that Varun was shifted from Sultanpur as he was facing anti-incumbency in that constituency.

If mother Maneka was expected to overcome the hurdle it simply misfired because of her shocking remarks. During an election speech addressing minority voters she told them that if she is rewarded with poor votes she won’t be able to help them after the elections when they would need her the most.

Taking a serious note of her remarks the Election Commission has barred her from campaigning for 48-hours.

In Sultanpur, Maneka is pitted against Congress party’s Sanjay Singh and Samajwadi Party’s Chandrabhadra Singh. BSP and SP have fielded Chandrabhardra Singh as their joint candidate.

Varun Gandhi has been visiting his constituency Sultanpur regularly and has been nurturing it over the years. But his arrogant behaviour seems to have miffed the local BJP leadership. As a result the leaders of state party unit have been distancing themselves from the young leader.

Varun and his mother have also been maintaining an uneasy relationship with BJP’s top leadership. As a result Varun was not included in party’s list of campaign speakers. There were intense speculations that Varun may not be offered a parliamentary seat this time.

In 2014 Varun had won Sultanpur constituency with a margin of over 1.7 lakh votes while Maneka Gandhi’s margin in Pilibhit was over three lakh votes.

Development of villages on the basis of votes

Maneka caused another controversy on Sunday evening when she told her voters that she intends to divide her constituency into four categories namely A,B,C and D based on vote share.

For instance the area that fetches her over 80 percent votes will be termed Category A, 60 percentage votes as Category B and with about 50 percent votes as Category C. The area that gets anything less than 50 per cent votes will be turned Category D and accordingly resources would be devolved for development work.

What political pundits think?

J P Shukla, a Lucknow based political observer feels that the remarks reflect her underlying frustration. “Her statements show that she is not mentally prepared for the seat swap,” he said.

Sultanpur based senior journalist Vivek Vikram Singh says that there was no need for Maneka to make such a statement in Sultanpur.

“Everyone in general knows that Muslims will not vote for BJP, but in Sultanpur things were different. Varun had done a lot of work for the Muslim community— this included helping them constructing their own houses. He has been a regular here and a popular representative. Things were certainly going in favour of Maneka Gandhi, but she seems to have messed up with her statements,” Singh says.

The senior journalist has a piece of advice for Maneka and politicians in general. “One should keep arrogance and attitude aside while running for a public office”, he said. Earlier Varun had irked party leadership with his arrogant behaviour, he hardly jelled with the local leadership and the final straw was his mother who has ended up spoiling her own chances. He said the episode has increased the chances of Congress candidate Sanjay Singh winning this constituency.

Samajwadi Party used the opportunity to hit out at Varun and Maneka. Party spokesperson, Abdul Hafiz Gandhi said the minister’s utterances were not only violation of Model Code of Conduct, but a clear criminal offence. He said she is using this language because she was facing a clear defeat. BJP local leadership, however, maintained a steady silence on the issue.