If the idea was to create a rift between mother and son then that has not happened. When Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Maneka Gandhi was given a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Sultanpur, and son Varun Gandhi was denied one from Pilibhit in the upcoming Lok Sabha election scheduled on April 19, it seemed like a war would break out between mother and son. However, Maneka and Varun are too close to each other to have allowed that to happen.

Without blaming anyone for depriving him of his constituency, the 44-year-old legislator wrote an open letter to the people of Pilibhit, reminding them that he had first visited the constituency as a three-year-old boy who had come holding his mother’s finger. "The relationship between Pilibhit and me is one of love and trust... which is far above any political multiplication. I was, am, and will be yours..." Varun wrote.

Varun thanked the great people of Pilibhit, and said that their ideals, simplicity, and kindness had a huge contribution to his upbringing and development. "Being your representative has been the greatest honour of my life, and I have always championed your interests to the best of my ability.

“If not as an MP then as a son, I am committed to serve you throughout my life and my doors will always remain open for you... as before. I came into politics to raise the voice of the common man, and today I seek your blessings to always continue doing this work, no matter the cost," he wrote.

In the past the BJP had given Varun a ticket from Pilibhit, instead of Maneka. At that time Maneka had happily handed over Pilibhit to her son and had contested from Sultanpur instead. In his debut contest from Pilibhit Varun had won by a large margin of votes.

Now Varun has bowed out of the race for the Pilibhit Lok Sabha seat. Maneka and Varun are soul mates as they have gone through heaven and hell together. Varun was three months old when his father Sanjay Gandhi died in an aeroplane crash in 1980. The younger daughter-in-law Maneka was a widow at the age of 23 years. Maneka Gandhi and Varun Gandhi have grown up together.

Maneka had rebelled against her mother-in-law, Prime Minister (PM) Indira Gandhi. She had packed her bags and left the PM’s residence with her son to make a new home for herself. From a very young age, she chartered her own political future outside of the Congress Party. Varun has grown up in the shadow of his mother and considerably influenced by her brand of politics.

Maneka had first contested the Lok Sabha elections in 1984 against her brother-in-law Rajiv Gandhi as an independent candidate from Amethi. She lost that election but won the Lok Sabha seat from Pilibhit in 1989 as a Janata Dal candidate. She has represented Pilibhit six times. In the 1999 elections she won 57.94 percent of votes, the largest victory among independent candidates in UP.

Varun entered politics when he had campaigned for his mother in the 1999 elections, covering 40 constituencies in the Pilibhit area. The two had formally joined the BJP in 2004, and in 2009 she gave up the Pilibhit constituency to Varun, before moving to contest from Sultanpur.

Today Varun’s secular credentials seem suspect, but his concern for the country’s farmers has been consistent.

A Farmer’s Friend

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP has been loud and clear in advocating that the farmers be heard. In a 2021 tweet, Varun had said that farmers will continue to be exploited till there is no guarantee of minimum support prices (MSPs) of crops.

Ever since the farmers’ rally of 2020, Varun has been speaking in the interest of farmers and the need to protect the life of all those who feed the country. His empathy towards farmers stems from his close association with the people of the Pilibhit Lok Sabha constituency.

The constituency has a predominantly rural electorate. Urban voters in Pilibhit total about 18 percent while the rest of the 82 percent of voters are predominantly rural. Scheduled Castes (SC) constitute 16 percent, while Scheduled Tribes (ST) make up a minute 0.1 percent.

Hindus constitute 65 percent of the population, followed by Muslims at 25 percent, and other religious groups at 10 percent. Varun has won three Lok Sabha elections from Pilibhit.

When he had first contested from Pilibhit, Varun had won by over four lakh votes in 2009. He won again in 2014 and 2019, but in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in April this year he was denied a ticket by his party.

The Shocked Supporters

Varun’s supporters are shocked that his party has denied him a ticket to contest this year’s Lok Sabha elections. The rural voters of Pilibhit click their tongue to say that a friend of farmers like Varun has been denied a ticket to contest the elections while Ajay Mishra Teni has been given a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha elections.

It may be recalled how Ashish Mishra the son of Teni had allegedly mowed down protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri with his SUV three years ago. After eight people were killed in October 2021, during the farmer’s protest by a car that allegedly had Ashish Mishra inside and which ran over four protestors, three BJP workers and a journalist.

Varun Gandhi had called for accountability for the innocent blood of farmers. He had also posted a purported video of the incident.

Who Is Jitin Prasada?

Former Congressman and minister in the Adityanath government, Jitin Prasada has replaced Varun as the BJP candidate in Pilibhit. Prasada had looked forward to a ticket from Kheri or Dhaurahara but his party has decided that he will contest this Lok Sabha election from Pilibhit.

Jitin is the son of former vice-president of the Congress Jitendra Prasada who was political advisor to prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi and P. V. Narasimha Rao in the 1990s. Jitin joined politics after the death of his father in 2001 as general secretary of Youth Congress.

In 2004, he won his first election to the Lok Sabha from his hometown Shahjahanpur, and was the youngest minister in the cabinet of prime minister Manmohan Singh. Jitin left the Congress to join the BJP in 2021.

Lok Sabha Polls

Politicians are in the midst of election fever. However, it is still not certain whether the Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav will contest the Lok Sabha elections, or not? The name of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has not been announced from any Lok Sabha constituency in UP till date. Will Priyanka Gandhi contest from Rae Bareli is another question on the mind of voters.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati has not held a single election rally so far, and has left the elections to be supervised by the All India General Secretary Satish Mishra and her successor Akash Anand. Mayawati is not expected to contest the polls.

The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) will contest the two Lok Sabha seats of Bijnor and Baghpat in alliance with the BJP. However RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary has decided to remain in the Rajya Sabha while two party loyalists will contest for Lok Sabha seats, including Baghpat that has been a family stronghold since 1936.