The BJP general secretary files papers from Sultanpur

The war of words between Priyanka Vadra and Varun Gandhi escalated on Tuesday with Ms. Vadra reminding Mr. Gandhi that the 2014 election was “an ideological war” and “not a family tea party.”

Mr. Gandhi shot back saying Ms. Vadra should not “cross the limits of decency” and his “large-heartedness” should not be construed as weakness.

Campaigning for her brother and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in Amethi, Ms. Vadra, while commenting on Mr. Varun Gandhi’s alleged hate speech in Pilibhit in 2009, said she “strongly disagreed” with the views expressed by her cousin. “It is a betrayal of my family. My father died for the unity of this country. I would not have forgiven my own child if he did something like this.” Her comments came two days after she said Mr. Gandhi had gone “astray” and should be shown the right path. While Mr. Gandhi’s mother Maneka came to his defence, the BJP leader himself maintained silence.

But, on Tuesday, after filing his nomination from Sultanpur, Mr. Gandhi said that in the last 10 years he had not crossed the “lakshman rekha of decency” and warned “others” to desist from personal attacks. “I believe in the politics of decency and principles. Let us try to raise the level of discourse rather than lowering it.”

He added, “There has been talk of my path. I have always considered the nation’s path as more important than my own. In my lifetime, if I am able to constructively contribute towards nation-building, I would consider my life meaningful.”

PTI adds:

She was apparently referring to the controversy Mr. Varun Gandhi had created in the last elections when he addressed an election rally in Pilibhit constituency which was widely denounced as a hate speech.

A couple of days earlier she had remarked that Mr. Varun Gandhi had gone “astray” and should be shown the right path.

Breaking his silence over cousin Priyanka Gandhi’s remark that he has gone “astray”, BJP general secretary Varun Gandhi on Tuesday suggested that she has crossed the "lakshman rekha of decency” and said nobody can raise one’s stature by belittling somebody.

The 34-year-old BJP leader also said that his “decency and large-heartedness” should not be construed as a weakness by anyone.

Mr. Varun Gandhi, who filed his nomination from Sultanpur Lok Sabha seat after holding a massive road show here, also chose the occasion to hail the leadership of Narendra Modi after remaining silent over him for over a month during his campaign in his new Parliamentary constituency bordering Amethi and Rae Bareli, the Nehru-Gandhi family pocketborough.

Four local BJP leaders signed as proposers in his nomination.

Hardselling his son of the soil image, the BJP general secretary repeatedly invoked his father Sanjay Gandhi’s name while addressing a public meeting in the city drawing cheers from the crowd.

Mr. Varun Gandhi, an MP from Plibhit, switched to Sultanpur this time and is considered to be in a strong position.

The BJP leader said people ask him why he does not talk against some individual or party and whether he does not feel that he should get some publicity by doing so and his answer to this is that “one who is focused on work does not have time for all this“.

“People asked me whether you will now go to campaign in Amethi and Rae Bareli since now people have said certain good things about you. I told them that I am son of Sanjay Gandhi and stick to what I say.The day I had joined politics, I said that I will not speak against my family members nor against my political enemies.

“I do not consider my family members as enemies but won’t speak against even those, who are my political enemies,” Mr. Varun Gandhi said.

Mr. Varun Gandhi said that he believes that his respect will notrise by insulting somebody.

While hailing Modi’s leadership, he also focused on “secular” politics and recalled that it was A B Vajpayee, who had brought him in politics.

“If the country needs a strong leader in the time to come, that leader is Narendra Modi...The country needs a strong leader, who considers the nation’s honour his own honour, treats the country’s fight as his own fight,” he said asking people to unite rising over caste and creed.

“My politics is secular, progressive, positive and issue—based. Why not we raise the issues that matter...we have to do a politics in which we talk about the rising corruption in the country, unemployment and illiteracy.No good will happen by our speaking ill or taking about caste and religion.

“As long as we do not respect the religion and fellow feeling of one another, the country will not rise.The unity of the nation will fall under threat. The country today needs unity,” he said seeking to project himself as a votary of positive politics minus any sectarian focus.

While Mr. Varun Gandhi repeatedly invoked his father’s name, he also had a piece of word against dynastic politics saying, “If politics has to be improved, dynasty politics will have to be minimised. Had I not been Varun Gandhi, or been some Varun Yadav, Varun Verma or Varun Dikshit, I would not have got this place and would have been standing in someone’s procession.

“I accept this and it is more of our responsibility to ensure that people from ordinary families get opportunities. Why not we bring forward people from ordinary families?,” he said.

Mr. Varun Gandhi said BJP has given such opportunities to people from ordinary families and thanked leaders like L K Advani, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari for promoting him in the party.

Seeking to connect with the voters, he recalled that his father breathed his last when he was just 100—days old and said, “You bless me not as a leader but as a son“.

“Wherever I go, people say had Sanjay Gandhi been alive, this or that task would have been accomplished...Today Sanjayji is no more.

“His dream was very big but he got very little time.I was just 100—days old, when he breathed his last...Today when I have come, here, I am remembering my father so much but you have compensated that loss with your love,” Mr. Varun Gandhi, who was earlier accorded a warm welcome during the road show with supporters greeting him with drum beats and showering of flower petals, said.

In a statement issued earlier, the BJP leader said, “Let us try to raise the level of discourse rather than lowering it. When we practise politics centered on personal criticism, we deviate from the crucial issues of our time. If India has to move towards politics of hope, we will have to raise the level of debate“.

With Mr. Varun Gandhi entering the poll fray from the Parliamentary seat, Sultanpur is abuzz with talks of a lotus bloom after a gap of 16 years.BJP had won the seat thrice between 1991 to 1998 after which BSP won it twice in 1999 and 2004.

Sanjay Singh won from Sultanpur on a Congress ticket in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.

Congress is making all efforts to retain the seat, where Varun Gandhi is seeking to make it a battle of legacy invoking his father Sanjay Gandhi’s name and describing Sultanpur as his ‘karmabhoomi’.

Mr. Varun Gandhi’s father had represented Amethi from 1980 to 1981 before his death in a plane crash.In the 1981 by—election Rajiv Gandhi won from the seat.

Sanjay Gandhi had also contested the seat in 1977 earlier but had lost it.Amethi was part of Sultanpur district and Sanjay Gandhi’s election office was opened in the district headquarters then.

In 1984, Sanjay Gandhi’s widow Maneka Gandhi contested from the seat as an independent against Rajiv Gandhi but lost to him.

Supporters of Mr. Varun Gandhi are confident that the young Gandhi will repeat his massive victory recorded in Pilibhit here notwithstanding the fact that BJP candidate, Surya Bhan Singh, who fought the last Lok Sabha polls could only garner 44,425 votes.

That may be a reason, why Mr. Varun Gandhi is not focusing too much on his party and or BJP’s prime ministerial candidate as he realizes that the name of his father Sanjay Gandhi could evoke a better emotional connect in the constituency.