New Delhi: In Uttar Pradesh’s Sultanpur and Pilibhit, the home ground of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs Maneka Gandhi and her son Varun Gandhi, the party is on course to emerge victorious in the state assembly elections.
Maneka’s parliamentary constituency Sultanpur is divided into five assembly constituencies — Isauli, Sultanpur, Sadar, Lambhua and Kadipur. Here, the BJP is looking at a clean sweep, leading in all 5 seats.
Pilibhit, where Varun is MP, is also divided into five assembly constituencies — Baheri, Pilibhit, Barkhera, Bisalpur and Puranpur. Here too the BJP is set for clean sweep, having won three constituencies (Pilibhit, Barkhera and Puranpur) and leading in the other two.
Despite both mother-son being sidelined by the party, the BJP has managed to retain its vote base in the region.
In the 2017 assembly polls, the BJP swept all five of the Pilibhit assembly constituencies by a substantial margin. In Sultanpur, it won four of the five constituencies, losing only Isauli to the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party (SP).
Both Maneka and Varun have a significant voter base in Pilibhit. The mother-son duo won the seat in the 2014 and 2019 general elections, respectively, by huge margins of over 5 lakh votes each. However, both were missing in action during campaigning for this year’s assembly polls.
Dropped from national executive, star campaigners’ list
Months before the 2022 assembly elections, Maneka, a former cabinet minister, and Varun were dropped from the party’s national executive committee in October 2021. The decision came days after Varun Gandhi’s tweets on the Lakhimpur Kheri incident allegedly involving Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra Teni’s son Ashish last October — through which he expressed support for the farmers who were mowed down and demanded the arrest of the perpetrators.
The mother-son were also left out of the BJP’s star campaigners’ list for UP.
Last year, Varun had also publicly asked UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to hike sugarcane prices. The Pilibhit MP also criticised the central government’s handling of issues like unemployment, economy and agriculture. Amid tensions with the BJP, there was speculation that Varun may join Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress.
Varun’s absence in Pilibhit has been noticeable in the UP polls, with him barely campaigning for the party after contracting Covid-19. The MP had explained his absence last month saying he was “afflicted with the Delta variant” and would reach his constituency once his “health permits”.
A close aide of the MP said supporters do pay heed to Varun’s call during assembly elections, but this time there was no message from his side.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)