‘Can’t think of other reason’: Maneka Gandhi on if critical writings have cost Varun BJP ticket

BJP fielded UP Public Works Minister Jitin Prasada from Pilibhit replacing Varun Gandhi, who has been vocal against his party-led government.

ByPTI

Published May 11, 2024 | 7:18 PMUpdatedMay 11, 2024 | 7:18 PM

BJP leader Maneka Gandhi (X)

BJP leader Maneka Gandhi on Saturday, 11 May, indicated that her son Varun Gandhi’s writings that were sometimes critical of the government may have cost him the party’s Lok Sabha ticket from Pilibhit but asserted that he would do very well even without it.

In an exclusive interview with PTI at her residence in Sultanpur, the former Union minister and BJP’s Sultanpur candidate also said Varun Gandhi wants to come and campaign for her but a decision on that hasn’t been taken yet.

The Sultanpur seat in Uttar Pradesh goes to polls on 25 May in the sixth round of the seven-phase general elections. Polling was held in Pilibhit in the first phase on 19 April.

On Varun Gandhi being denied a ticket and if she felt bad as a mother, Maneka Gandhi said, “Well I can’t say I was delighted but I am sure Varun will do very well even without a ticket.”

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‘Varun’s constituency, party’s decision’

Asked about calls from Pilibhit that he should have been fielded from there this time also, she said, “Yes, he should have been there but the party has taken a decision and that’s it.

On whether in future Varun Gandhi may switch to Sultanpur like earlier or Pilibhit was his ‘karmabhoomi’ now, Maneka Gandhi said that “at the moment, of course, Pilibhit, and India is his karmabhoomi, let him work all over.”

Asked if his writings on certain subjects that were critical of the government cost him the ticket, she said, “I can’t think of one other reason.”

On whether Varun Gandhi will campaign for her in Sultanpur, Maneka Gandhi said he is happy to come and has been asking to come “but we haven’t decided on it as yet”. “I don’t want to put everybody through this,” she added.

The eight-time MP also asserted that in her elections she only talks about local issues.

“It is just about work that has been done and work that will be done because that interests people much more than national issues,” she told PTI.

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‘Ram temple not part of poll narrative in Sultanpur’

On how she is placed this time as compared to the previous election which she won by over 14,000 votes, she said, “I have settled in and the election seems to be going well and hopefully we will do much better.”

On her late husband Sanjay Gandhi’s development works in the region and its towering impact on the minds of the people, she said that “the family is remembered and he is remembered a lot”.

Asked about the Ram temple being a dominant theme of the BJP narrative in Uttar Pradesh, she said that in Sultanpur, perhaps, it is less important even though it is next to Ayodhya.

“People are very happy about the Ayodhya temple, (but) it is not part of the narrative of the election. It may be in everybody’s heart but it is not part of the spoken narrative,” the former Union minister said.

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‘Inappropriate for Pitroda to raise inheritance tax issue’

Maneka Gandhi also hit out at Congress leader Sam Pitroda for raking up the inheritance tax issue.

“It was inappropriate of him to raise it. Sitting in America, you can’t really sound off if you are a responsible member of your own party. Personally, I am totally against inheritance tax,” she said.

Asked about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claims on the issue of “redistribution of wealth”, the BJP leader said, “I think he was just reacting to what Pitroda said.”

Talking about the government schemes that have made a difference on the ground, Maneka Gandhi said giving people rations has certainly helped and one of the wonderful things that has happened is people getting “pucca” houses. This has impacted a lot, she said.

Asked about the position of the BJP after three phases of the Lok Sabha polls, Gandhi said she has not done any analysis as she has been working on her own seat which goes to the polls on 25 May.

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‘400 plus seats for the NDA realistic target’

On whether the BJP’s target of getting more than 400 seats for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and 370 for itself is realistic, Gandhi said, “It seems to be, otherwise they would not have said it.”

On whether she would be a minister again if the NDA returns to power, Maneka Gandhi said, “I have no idea, I am not the one making those decisions.”

Asked about any unfulfilled ambitions, she said she has got lots of ambitions but in the animal welfare field.

On the prediction for her seat and the vote margin she is looking at, Gandhi said, “I don’t make predictions. We will win this seat but by how much, I have no idea.”

In 2019, the BJP leader had bagged 4,59,196 votes defeating BSP’s Chandra Bhadra Singh who got 4,44,670 votes in Sultanpur.

This time she is contesting against Ram Bhual Nishad of the Samajwadi Party.

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In Pilibhit, Jitin Prasada replaces Varun 

The BJP fielded Uttar Pradesh Public Works Minister Jitin Prasada from Pilibhit replacing Varun Gandhi, who has been vocal against his own government several times on the issue of inflation and unemployment.

Denied a ticket from the Pilibhit Lok Sabha seat, BJP MP Varun Gandhi had also written an emotional letter to the people of his constituency in which he asserted that his relationship with them will remain intact till his last breath.

The Pilibhit seat has remained with Maneka Gandhi or her son since 1996.

Maneka Gandhi won the seat on a Janata Dal ticket in 1989, lost in 1991, and won it again in 1996. She won from the constituency in 1998 and 1999 as an Independent candidate.

She won the seat in 2004 and 2014 as a BJP candidate. Varun Gandhi won the seat in 2009 and 2019 as a BJP candidate.

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