Varun’s absence casts a shadow over Pilibhit campaign discourse

  • | Wednesday | 17th April, 2024

In the electoral battleground of Pilibhit, the conspicuous absence of two-time Member of Parliament Varun Gandhi from the fray has left a palpable void, yet his influence continues to cast a significant shadow over the campaign discourse. While Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Jitin Prasada refrains from direct references to Varun, opposition candidates assert that denial of ticket to him stems from his vocal advocacy for peoples issues. Varun cannot be overlooked in this election. He and his mother, Maneka Gandhi, have wielded authority in this constituency for six terms. Varun is perceived as an honest person accessible to the people, states Maninder Singh, a local farmer. Devendra, a resident of Bhanga Mohmaddi village, reminisces about the influence of the Gandhis, noting their longstanding support for the BJP symbol. However, with Varuns replacement by PWD Minister Jitin Prasada, the partys electoral strategy underwent a significant shift. Varuns previous victory with a margin of over two lakh votes underscores the challenge faced by Prasada in stepping into his shoes. Aware of Varuns enduring influence, Prasada aligns himself closely with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, presenting himself as an emissary of the prime minister during his election campaign. Your vote for me is a vote for Modi, he asserted during a rally in Mohmaddi village. Declaring his mission to promote development in Pilibhit on behalf of Modi, Prasada emphasises the need for continuity in the BJPs governance. For the last decade, you have witnessed the transformative initiatives of the Modi government. It is time to entrust your faith in Modi once again, he urges voters. Downplaying Varuns absence, Prasada emphasises party unity and highlights the numerous projects initiated by the BJP since 2014. The partys decision to field me has unified leaders and workers in our pursuit of victory, he states. However, for opposition candidates like Samajwadi Partys Bhagwat Saran Gangwar, Varuns exclusion becomes a rallying point against the BJP. The denial of ticket to a leader who advocated for farmers and unemployed youths reflects BJPs disregard for genuine issues, Gangwar asserts, tapping into public discontent. With the Gandhi familys absence, rival candidates see an opportunity to challenge the BJPs dominance. Maneka and Varun Gandhi have entrenched BJPs hold on Pilibhit. With their absence, the opposition senses a chance to reclaim the seat, observes Sripal Sharma, a local teacher. Meanwhile, Bahujan Samaj Party candidate Anis Ahmed Khan, known as Phul Babu, capitalises on the local versus outsider narrative, portraying BJP and SP candidates as outsiders who, he says, will abandon the constituency post-election. I am here to stay, declares Khan, emphasising his local roots. With a diverse electorate comprising Muslims, Lodhs, Kurmis, Sikhs, Dalits and upper castes, Pilibhit braces for a triangular contest between BJP, SP and BSP, promising an intense electoral battle for supremacy. As the campaign intensifies, the absence of Varun Gandhi reverberates through Pilibhits political landscape, shaping the discourse and dynamics of the upcoming polls.  

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