He is perhaps the only BJP candidate who does not refer to Narendra Modi or the 'Modi lahar' (wave) in any of his speeches. Neither does he evoke the names of BJP leading lights like Atal or Advani. He does not refer to the UPA government's failures, the alleged appeasement of minorities or any communally sensitive issue, which is the staple content of every other BJP candidate's electoral salvos.
His election may be scheduled for May 7 and the results would be out on May 16. But the tall, young and handsome Varun Gandhi (34) has already earned the title 'Sultan of Sultanpur'. The 'other' Gandhi scion is out to carve out his rightful place in this swathe of Rae Bareli-Amethi-Sultanpur, which has always been a pocket borough of the Nehru-Gandhi family, and he is doing it with great elan.
After all, it was his father, Sanjay Gandhi, who first nurtured the Amethi constituency (which was part of Sultanpur district before becoming a separate district in 2010) in the late 70s and won it in 1980. Varun makes an emotional connect with the people of Sultanpur as he talks about his mother and father.
"After the death of my father, Sultanpur has been orphaned. I have come as a son to realise my father's dreams here," he says. "My mother has taught me to respect women. She says Goddess Laxmi is present wherever women are present. So, more and more women should come out and vote," he says at a small village meeting populated by women in large numbers, pointing out that only 39 per cent women voted in the 2009 election.
Varun does refer to the development in Gujarat occasionally, but never harps on the Modi theme. "I am not here to divide people. I am here for the development of Sultanpur. I don't promise to turn this place into Paris overnight. But I promise to develop Sultanpur like Gujarat has developed," he declares.
In many ways, Varun has grown into a matured politician. He has given up the aggression and anger he apparently inherited from his stormy petrel father. In the 2009 election from Pilibhit, he was charged for making hate speeches targeting minorities. However, now when you ask him about that episode, he dismisses it as a media distortion.
Dressed in bright pastel kurtas, Varun campaigns all day with focus on personal contact. "He spends more time sitting around and talking to people about their problems and offering help and assurances rather than giving long-winded speeches. His personal touch is working wonders for him," says senior journalist Naresh Dixit. "He is sure to win," Naresh says with a certain finality.
Varun faces challenge from 'Rani' Ameeta Sinh (Congress), wife of the 'Raja' of Amethi Sanjay Sinh, who won this seat for the Congress in 2009 after a gap of 25 years. Ironically, Sanjay Sinh and Sanjay Gandhi were bosom friends, and, in fact, Sanjay was instrumental in preparing the ground for the Gandhi scion here in the 70s. Clearly, Varun is back to claim his father's political legacy, and as of now, there seems no way anyone can deny him that.