May 30, 2020
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'Varun Gets His Liar's Streak From Maneka's Side'

There is also a streak of masochism, the desire to hurt oneself, in Varun's mother's family

'Varun Gets His Liar's Streak From Maneka's Side'
There are two things from his mother’s family that Varun Gandhi has inherited. First, there is a streak of masochism, the desire to hurt oneself, in Varun’s mother’s family. Maneka Gandhi’s father took his own life. Her uncle killed himself. And now Varun is doing the same. He must have known that what he said about the Muslims would hurt the Muslims and cost him the Muslim vote. What he said about the Sikhs—about barah baje—is a racial slur and there is a sizeable Sikh population in Pilibhit that isn’t likely to vote for him now. Nevertheless, he went along because he couldn’t help himself. And all he got out of it is that, from being a non-entity, he now has national notoriety. He will pay the price for this in due course.

There is another thing I’ve seen about Maneka’s family: the word ‘truth’ doesn’t exist in their dictionary. Both Varun and his mother made many contradictory statements trying to justify or deny what he had said. But it is now quite clear that he did say these things. And Maneka went out of the way to point an accusing finger at an officer who had done his duty while dispersing a violent Hindu mob because he happened to be a Muslim. I am surprised that her party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, hasn’t pulled her and her son up for this.

But I see nothing of his father, Sanjay, in Varun Gandhi. Sanjay was at least a doer. Impatient, ill-mannered, with a streak of a dictator, but at the same time—as far as my relations with him were concerned—extremely courteous. And I never heard him at any time say anything against Muslims. That is, after all, the acid test: how do you look upon the largest minority in this country?

I met Varun when he came to my home some years ago. He brought his book of poems, which he’d just published. I liked the book and praised it in print. He seemed a very courteous, polite man. I was pleased. I thought, at least there’s one boy in the entire clan who is going to keep out of politics and commit himself to a writing life. It was probably Maneka who persuaded him to go into politics. I was disappointed. It would appear Maneka has been a bad influence on Varun. If she had been a more honest person, she would have pulled him up herself.

That Maneka would stoop to communal politics is not at all surprising. She broke with the Nehru-Gandhi family and felt very bitter with the whole lot of them. And she’s an opportunist—so it was quite in the order of things that she would do this kind of thing.

As told to Sheela Reddy

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