|Varun Gandhi Following Narendra Modi's Footsteps|
Mail TodayNew DelhiSeptember 21, 2011
It seems to be the season of makeovers in the BJP. Varun Gandhi is now following the example of the other Hindutva icon, Narendra Modi, in trying to repackage himself as a new-age statesman for wider consumption.
Modi, of course, is playing for higher stakes with his fast and address to the nation at Ahmedabad. His younger colleague is not lacking in ambition, but hasn't reached the stage of aspiring for the Prime Minister's job, at least not yet.
The BJP's Varun has set his eyes on the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, where he wants to play a pivotal role. The idea is to emerge on the national stage as a widely accepted leader through the timetested heartland of UP.
For the purpose, Varun has to rid himself of the natural branding of his politics after the obnoxious spiel he delivered against Muslims during the 2009 elections. Though he has officially claimed he never uttered the "If you raise your hand on any Hindu, I swear by the Gita that I will cut off that hand" speech, he clearly realises it is not going to take him far.
So, while Modi has been trying to metamorphose from being the Hindu Hriday Samrat to the CEO of Gujarat, Varun's trip is to get on to the Anna Hazare bandwagon and emerge as a new-age activist against corruption and social evils. For the purpose, he has been using his Twitter account to make statements on all contemporary political issues.
His first step was inviting Hazare to use his official residence as a venue for his fast. He then marked his presence at the Ramlila Grounds, where Hazare was fasting the previous month, and sat closed-eyed in the meditation pose, for the cameras.
The next step was taking on all political parties, including his own, for not demanding action against Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL). Only CPM has officially demanded action against RIL for malpractices such as inflation of capital costs to claim a much higher share of the profit petroleum and retaining the entire 7,645-sq-km exploration area in violation of the contract. Varun went on the front foot on this. "CAG indicts Reliance. Clear violation of contract terms. Government and Opposition both silent.
Wonder why?" he tweeted. He went on to share details of where the CAG had found fault with RIL: "(a) Eliminated competition in contracts, (b) Awarded contracts at unreasonable rates, (c) Directly notified oil and gas discoveries without informing government."
On Tuesday, Varun played another shot in his makeover game. He tweeted, expressing solidarity with Manipur's Irom Sharmila. The BJP, incidentally, is not in favour of withdrawing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which is what Sharmila's fast is aimed at achieving.
"The tragedy of Irom Sharmila's 11-year-long fast being ignored by the Centre. It reflects the greater tragedy of the national neglect of the North-East. I would like to be part of a parliamentary delegation that shows due respect to Sharmila's struggle by calling upon her," Varun tweeted.
Clearly, he is throwing in his lot with the civil society in the hope of recasting himself as an activistpolitician.
But public images are, at least in parts, rooted in the real persona of politicos. Unless this reflects a real inner quest, it's unlikely to achieve the desired results.
Varun just has to ask BJP veteran L.K. Advani about his experiments with Muhhamad Ali Jinnah's secularism to discover the truth about attempted makeovers and their impact on people's perceptions.