Anyone who thinks Varun Gandhi's speech in Pilibhit/Barkhera makes him something of a Hindutva posterboy all of his own doing, has it all wrong. If you watch his speech with any measure of detachment -- and I know that's difficult -- you'd see just how put-on and out-of-character it all appears. His thuggish, dimwitted personality does not have the finesse to latch onto the finer contours of electoral politics. If anyone even remotely believes that the idea of for his speech was his own, they would have totally misread both Varun Gandhi and his state of being. He's a string-puppet, and was put up to the job by someone far more clever, far sharper and higher up in the saffron establishment. As was made clear by his bumbling, obtuse statement to the media later, Varun does not have the intellectual follow-through to stick with something he isn't obviously convinced about, politically or otherwise.
Because let's be absolutely clear about one thing. Feroze's (that's his given name, not Varun) violent, peurile adventurism is the result of carefully modulated instructions. I say this now because there are several reasons why I don't think he believes in the things he said, beyond maybe for the ludicrously cheap political gains. But again, let's not play down the gains. Because Varun Gandhi has, overnight, gone from being the underdog Gandhi, paranoid, insecure and with nothing to call his own, directly into the harsh glare of the public eye where he's assured himself the wilful permanence that the media has in the past dealt to folks like Uma Bharti and that jackass from the VHP. Varun Gandhi is now a star for the deeply offensive things he said in those speeches. Let's not kid ourselves. In all likelihood, he will win from Pilibhit and even campaign for the BJP in other constituencies.
Varun's mentor (whoever that is) found in him an adequately dim-witted yet sophisticated young man, with all the energy and passion of a comfortable life, coupled with an instant detachment from the obvious dust of politics. I remember his popular column in RSS newspaper Organiser
. I remember how Varun wrote flagrantly unedited copy, rich with inaccuracies and factual boo-boos about defence and national security. I remember wondering how someone with an obvious brain could write such drivel. Obviously I know very little about politics and perception, because in the span of a year of writing those deeply misinformed columns, Varun automatically became something of an authority on the security of akhand Bharat
, even if he couldn't expand SLBM if a gun was held to his forehead.
Varun was a year senior to me in a boarding school in South India for two years. We didn't know each other in any real sense, but I of course knew who he was -- in Class 5, I remember it being immeasurably smooth that a Gandhi studied at the same school I did. In a sense I thought I must be doing something right! Well, as it turns out, for whatever reason, I hated the school, and after two years, threatened my parents with desertion if they did not immediately get me out and back home. I don't know if Varun went on to graduate from that school, but I imagine he did. I faintly remember a conversation with him outside his dormitory block (I was waiting for another friend), where we talked about Nintendo videogames and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- it's hard to remember or imagine what a phenomenon the Turtles were back then. But I digress.
I just think Varun Gandhi's getting too much credit (I mean that in the neutral sense of course) for something that isn't really his brainchild. His adventurism -- such as it is -- will almost certainly crank up his political position (it already, indubitably, has). I know people who know Varun Gandhi well -- people who've been his friends for years, and remain friends. He used to a date someone who was half-Muslim. If anyone took his diatribe against sardars
seriously, that would be laughable. Varun, as everyone knows, is half-Sikh by birth. But again, that's besides the point.
There are only two points here that matter, and they're the only
ones that matter. One, Varun Gandhi has consolidated perceptions of him and his political position in equal measure -- something that has assured him a berth in the wagon of dirty democracy. Two, he will have people to thank for it.