Thursday, April 16, 2009

VARUN GANDHI: WOUNDED TIGER ON THE PROWL

Varun Gandhi is going to get out of Etah jail on parole any moment, on orders of the Supreme Court. The Congress and the Samajwadi Party have both been saying that Mayawati had booked him under the NSA as part of an "understanding" with the BJP. As per them, by acting tough on him, she wanted to poach Mulayam Yadav's Muslim votes while the BJP thought that the Hindu vote would consolidate in its favour. But is that really what they actually believe?

It may be recalled that the sting done on Varun Gandhi had earlier taken a turn completely unexpected by the media and opponents of the BJP who had gone bonkers thinking that they had got a real issue to beat the BJP with. Thanks to the almost hysterical reactions of analysts and journalists who did not want him to "get away", Varun Gandhi actually became a star almost overnight in a manner that no had had thought he would. And, when his surrender in Pilibhit turned into a show that surprised even the BJP, with a sea of people turning up to cheer him, it appeared that the BJP had found a rallying point to make a dramatic comeback at least in UP.

Mayawati's decision to slap the draconian NSA on him while he was still in jail was greeted with silent approval and relief by all those who were alarmed by the turn of events. No one of note opposed this blatant misuse of the NSA only because it suited their political biases, just as their staunch opposition to a separate terror law had earlier. Everyone was thankful that he was out of the election campaign that they had foolishly electrified for him, and would be fighting the elections in total silence from behind the bars. It was taken for granted that Mayawati's advisory committee that was to review his arrest was not going to let him out till the election were over, at least.

No one had then thought that he would approach the Supreme Court and that the apex court would set him free. But it has, even though with a few conditions which effectively don't really matter. Suddenly, there is anger in TV studios born out of worry, even panic. No one will ever be caught admitting, but they all know better than most of us, that Varun on the loose, making even "sanitised" speeches, is going to be the force multiplier that can tilt the balance in favour of the BJP, even though the first phase of voting for 124 seats will be over today. No wonder some of them are not able to keep themselves from criticising the Supreme Court for releasing him and allowing him to make political speeches.

People out there know only too well that while everyone, including the Election Commission, had gone ballistic with Varun's hate speech that he still disputes, a string of speeches that have followed have hardly been covered in the media or given such air by politicians. The Railway Minister of India says that he would have crushed Varun Gandhi under a road roller; someone says that he will cut the hands that are raised against Muslims, another says that Muslims who vote for the BJP should be declared infidels. Does any one go to jail? Does the Election Commission ask their parties to not field them in the elections? The worst perhaps is that Sanjay Dutt tells Barkha Dutt in an exclusive interview that the was beaten by the police when he was in jail because his mother was a Muslim, and NDTV just buries that statement! It is only later when he repeats this elsewhere that cognisance is taken, but the media still glosses over it.

Prabhu Chawla, one of the few respected media stars who is known for his "Seedhi Baat" (Straight Talk), hit the nail on the head when he said in a discussion on Headlines Today a short while back that the BJP in UP was an "issueless, leaderless, rudderless" outfit till Varun Gandhi was thrust into the limelight and put on centre stage, if I may add, by an overenthusiastic media that is seen by many people as identifying with the Congress. He is the first Gandhi after Mrs Indira Gandhi to go to jail for political reasons. His grandmother was locked up by her political opponents after she was defeated in 1977; more than three decades later, her grandson has been put put him in jail by his political opponents by invoking a draconian provision of law that has not been used even against terrorists.

If indeed Mayawati had put Varun behind bars to damage the prospects of the Congress and the the SP, then both these parties and the media would have been crying hoarse about the shameless misuse of the NSA by her. And now that he is about to walk out of jail, all of them should pleased that the Supreme Court has spoiled her plans by dexterously ensuring that the rule of law prevails. But are they? Watch TV debates in the evening today. You will get the answer.

An unwise political incarceration has made Varun Gandhi a real leader, whether you and I like it or not. The wounded tiger, now much more dangerous than he was before he went to jail, is on the prowl again.

In two earlier posts, I had highlighted that the real, decisive IPL T20 tournament of these elections was being played in UP. With Varun Gandhi hitting the campaign trail again and the media trapped into analysing every twitch on his face, expect the atmosphere to be electrified in more ways than one. Will his presence lead to some sort of a swing in favour of the BJP in a sufficient number of constituencies yet to go to the polls? If it does and if the party increases its tally in UP by 20 seats to hit the 30 mark, a lot of smart alecs will have serious egg on their faces. And Advani might find that he is no longer the PM in waiting. At last.

UPDATE

Varun has been released. Here the video of him walking out of Etah jail.



Varun - a picture of defiance
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Readers may also read:
1. Say sorry to India Varun
2. The Varun Sting: who is not playing the communal card?
3. Rahul, Varun and the politics of hate
4. The Varun Fiasco:Congress scores another self goal
5. The real IPL T20 is on in UP!