Battle for UP: Varun Gandhi’s absence in Pilibhit raises questions

The absence of BJP MP Varun Gandhi from the campaign in his constituency, Pilibhit, has created a piquant situation for the BJP.

Pilibhit, which goes to polls on Wednesday, has five assembly segments and a sizeable Sikh population.

Varun, and his mother Maneka, have a significant support base in the constituency. Both have won the seat with huge margins.

Maneka in 2014 and Varun in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, got over 5 lakh votes each. However, the BJP dropped them from the list of star campaigners after Varun raised questions related to the farmers’ agitation.

Varun explains his absence by saying, “I was afflicted with the Delta variant of Covid. I have still not recovered. I will reach my constituency once my health permits.”

A close aide of his, however, said on the condition of anonymity that “everyone has the freedom to cast his/her vote, but a large number of supporters in Pilibhit do heed to Varun Gandhi’s call at the time of Assembly elections. No message has come from him this time.”

Asked if the absence of Varun or his mother will impact the polls, all four BJP candidates in Pilibhit district declined to comment, but claimed that their party is in a strong position in all four seats.

Dr Shailendra Gangwar, the SP candidate from Pilibhit city, meanwhile, said, “The silence of a powerful opponent is nothing less than an indirect support to his/her rivals. Of course, it will help us.”

The BJP is locked in a direct fight with the Samajwadi Party for the Pilibhit city, Barkhera and Puranpur seats.

In Bisalpur, though, there is a triangular contest between the BJP, BSP and the SP.

In 2017, the BJP bagged all five seats here. The SP in 2012, had snapped up four of the five seats while BJP could win only one.

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