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Elections 2019: In Pilibhit, BJP's Gandhi Hopes For Another Win From Understated Campaign

Elections 2019: Pilibhit has been the stronghold of Varun Gandhi's mother Maneka Gandhi, who has been elected as a lawmaker from there six times since 1989. But this time, her son is contesting.

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Elections 2019: In Pilibhit, BJP's Gandhi Hopes For Another Win From Understated Campaign

Elections 2019: In his campaigns, Varun Gandhi made no mention of PM Modi or the BJP government's work.


Pilibhit, Uttar Pradesh: 

A brief 25-second phone conversation with the BJP's Varun Gandhi, the evening before Pilibhit, from where he is aiming to get elected to the Lok Sabha , consists only of several nos. Mr Gandhi was responding to a request from this reporter to agree to an interview before the vote in the western Uttar Pradesh seat.

Mr Gandhi's response last evening, and his refusal to engage with the media all through his campaign, with just a few exceptions, is testimony to the kind of understated campaign he has led here this national election.

In his campaigns, Varun Gandhi made no mention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the BJP government's work.

Pilibhit has been the stronghold of Varun Gandhi's mother Maneka Gandhi, who has been elected as a lawmaker from there six times since 1989. But this time, her son is contesting.

Maneka Gandhi is the sitting lawmaker of Pilibhit. In 2014, she won with a 52 per cent vote share. Varun Gandhi also fought from Pilibhit in 2009 and won by a margin of 3 lakh votes. This time the mother-son duo has swapped seats. Maneka Gandhi is contesting from where her son Varun won in 2014, Sultanpur.

Mr Gandhi 's 2009 victory from Pilibhit was rather contentious , with the 39-year-old being accused of making hate speeches to polarise the election. He was later acquitted in the case but accusations continue to linger.

Fighting against Mr Gandhi is the Samajwadi Party's Hemraj Verma, a former Uttar Pradesh minister who says not only is he in the fight but the Bahujan Samaj Party's support to his candidature in the seat as part of the state's grand alliance or mahagathbandhan is an added boost. Mr Verma is a backward caste Lodh and says he is banking on the sizeable votes of Lodhs , Dalits and Muslims , that together make up about 10 lakh of the 15 lakh voters in Pilibhit, which will help him defeat the BJP's star candidate.

But arithmetic may not be the only factor on a seat that has elected the BJP's Gandhis continuously for about three decades now.

When NDTV followed Varun Gandhi on his campaign trail across 14 villages, he made it a point to remind the people about the family connection that Pilibhit has had with the Gandhis. At one of the village rallies, Varun Gandhi said, "30 years is a long time. A person grows up from the age of 10 to 40. When we came here initially, the people who helped us in our fight, now their children are helping us in our victory. It is our good fortune that we got so much love. Today also, I have come to protect you and your dignity. Trust me and I will not betray your trust. From your son's job to your father's medical needs I am always there. I won't let your head bow down with shame."

At another rally, he said, "If you make me win by 1 lakh votes, my strength will seem ordinary. I will feel stronger if the margin is 2 lakh votes. But if the margin is 3 lakh votes like last time, I will turn into Superman and protect you."

On Sunday , the last day of the campaign, Varun Gandhi said that it won't be a problem if Muslims will not vote for him, saying he would still help them out with their work.

"I want to say just one thing to my Muslim brothers. I will be very happy if you vote for me. But even if you don't, no problem at all. You can still come to me for your work (aap phir bhi mujhse kaam le lena)," he said while addressing an election rally in Pilibhit.

"But if your sugar gets mixed with my tea, then my tea will become sweeter," he added.

His comments came days after his mother Maneka Gandhi was seen on camera telling a gathering of Muslims to vote for her or else she may not be inclined to be responsive to their requests.

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