Varun Gandhi and Maneka Gandhi have a very strong mantra and that is nothing but animosity against some religion. This is not just these two but even Sanjay Gandhi was not much in favour of the Muslims of India. He was against an increasing population which he thought was a major hurdle in the growth of India. He wanted to deal with it highhandedly. He saw population growth and poverty amongst Muslims on a greater scale as compared to the Hindus. He went ahead with mass sterilisation (conveyor-belt sterilisations) to control the problem. Birth Control is a big Taboo in Islam; there was a huge cry from Muslims against this. The right-wing ideology in Gandhi family was flagged by Sanjay Gandhi; after the death of Sanjay, his wife Maneka wasn’t given any political responsibility. After Indira’s death, Rajiv was chosen as the PM’s candidate and even by the opposition inside the Congress, he was chosen as the PM also. After that, she fought an independent election against Rajiv. She was defeated; after Rajiv’s death, Sonia, his wife, was chosen as the front-runner for the PM’s post. Congress became the largest party after the 1991 elections. Sonia refused to join the politics and then the veteran Congressman PV Narasimha Rao was chosen as the PM and the President of the Party. Maneka remained as the independent MP from Pilibhit. She became the Minister in the government of Vajpayee and just before the 2004 election, she joined the BJP with her son. The nature of their schizophrenic relationship with the BJP, the bond of pain and trauma Varun had with his mother, who he had seen struggling all his life, worked on himself. BJP had a soft corner for Maneka because of her strong contrary to Congress and the Gandhis. She became a part of the NDA under the Vajpayee leadership and she held portfolio too. In 2004, she officially joined BJP and later her son too.
Rajiv (elder son of Indira Gandhi) and Sonia got married in 1968. Sanjay (younger son of Indira Gandhi) and Maneka got married six years later in 1974. The two daughters-in-law of the Gandhi family were perfectly opposite to each other in nature. On becoming a part of the Gandhi family, Sonia became the typical Indian daughter-in-law! She started calling her mother-in-law “Mummy”, started wearing sarees, started learning Hindi and learned cooking, would look after the household chores and take care of the home. She was shy and frightened at the same time to be a part of the family that was constantly in the public eye. Maneka, on the other hand, was dynamic. She was the daughter of a colonel. She could not adjust to the non-smoking, non-drinking Gandhi family. She knew none of the household chores. She loved being in the limelight. As a teenager, she had even done a modelling assignment for a towel (Bombay Dyeing, I guess) that caught the eye of Sanjay Gandhi. The sobriety of the Gandhi residence often suffocated her. Sonia was content as a wife and a mother. She and Rajiv were happy to look after their children and stay away from any kind of publicity. Maneka, on the other hand, had political ambitions. She was manipulative and was planning for the future as she believed that Sanjay would someday be the Prime Minister. The preference for the mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi, was thus clear. Sonia was her favourite. Maneka’s fiery temperament and political leanings evoked anger and resentment in Indira Gandhi. This often led to disputes within the family which didn’t go unnoticed. Maneka has done more damage to Indira than anyone else – that awful woman got under her skin; these same personal disputes turned political. Congress is known to be a secular party and exactly opposite Maneka chose to be collective.
Sanjay Gandhi was very active in politics and was considered to be the right hand of Indira Gandhi. He wielded great power in Indian politics as well as the Indian National Congress throughout his lifetime. Sanjay Gandhi was then seen as the first preference for Indira Gandhi’s political heir and successor. However, after his death and the differences with Maneka, Indira went close to Rajeev than considering her Maneka as her preference in carrying out Sanjay’s political legacy. After Sanjay’s death, Maneka turned overtly political. She believed that she was the rightful inheritor of Sanjay’s position but Indira Gandhi threw Maneka Gandhi out of the house. The political legacy of the Gandhi family was thus passed on to Rajiv Gandhi. Manic Maneka Gandhi then founded her own political party called the Rashtriya Sanjay Manch in 1983. The party had great success in the Andhra Pradesh State Election winning 4 out of 5 seats that it contested. Riding this success, Maneka decided to file the nomination from her husband’s seat in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh, against Rajiv Gandhi in 1984. Her victory was sure as she had the public sympathy after Sanjay’s death. However, in the same year, Indira Gandhi was assassinated and the wave of sympathy turned towards Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv Gandhi won by a huge margin, went on to become India’s Prime Minister and Maneka was once again got humiliated. This was the incident that turned Maneka anti-Congress.
Time has changed but Menaka still poaches her instincts in politics. In the recent past, a video of hers got viral and in that she was saying, “If my victory is without Muslims, I won’t feel that good. ‘Dil Khatta Ho Jayega’ [heart will become sour). She set off a political storm when a video clip went viral on social media, showing her telling Muslims that if they did not vote for her, she might not be responsive to their requests later. She further stated “It is all give and take, a negotiation, isn’t it? We are not all children of Mahatma Gandhi, are we?” “I have already won the election but you will need me. This is your chance to lay the foundation. When the election comes and this booth throws up 100 votes or 50 votes, and then you come to me for work, we will see… do you all understand.” The veiled threat in the speech evoked strong condemnation across the board from social media. Never before in the history of independent India and her elections has this happened and the Election Commission of India continues to look away and not act. The general elections in India can be a bizarre time as politicians shoot their mouths off to get votes. Netas promise the moon and stars, but Union Minister Maneka Gandhi isn’t one of them. This time, Gandhi seems to have decided that she will threaten people with joblessness and deprivation if they don’t vote for her. Never mind that an elected representative is supposed to work for everyone in his/her constituency, irrespective of their political stands.
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