Bharatiya Janata Party leader Maneka Gandhi on Thursday won the Lok Sabha elections from the Sultanpur Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh by 4,59,196 votes. Bahujan Samaj Party leader Chandra Bhadra Singh alias Sonu Singh came a close second with 4,44,670 votes.
Though Maneka Gandhi won the Pilibhit seat in 2014, the BJP decided to have her swap seats with her son Varun Gandhi for the polls. As a result, Varun Gandhi contested from Pilibhit while Maneka Gandhi stood from Sultanpur. The party reportedly made the decision as it thought Maneka Gandhi would have a better chance than her son in navigating the triangular contest in Sultanpur.
Maneka Gandhi secured 45.1% of the votes, while Singh gained a close 44.45% vote share. The Congress candidate from the seat, Sanjay Singh, managed to win only 41,681 votes, or 4.17% votes. Sanjay Singh – a former close associate of Maneka Gandhi’s husband Sanjay Gandhi – represented Sultanpur in Lok Sabha from 2009 to 2014. In 2014, Varun Gandhi won the seat.
In the run-up to the elections, Maneka Gandhi was filmed threatening Muslims that they were unlikely to receive her help if they failed to vote for her. “If Muslims come for some work after that [after she wins] I will think ‘why bother?’” she was seen saying. “Because employment is a negotiation after all, isn’t that right? We are not Mahatma Gandhi’s children to keep giving without getting anything in return,”. The Election Commission took notice of the minister’s comments and banned her from campaigning from April 16 to 18.
Pilibhit seat goes to BJP
Varun Gandhi won the family bastion Pilibhit with 7,04,549 votes. His nearest rival was Hemraj Verma of the Samajwadi Party. Shiv Sena candidate Anita Tripathi came a distant third with 3,974 votes.
Verma is from the backward Lodh caste and was banking on the support of the sizeable number of Lodhs, Dalits and Muslims, who constitute about 10 lakh of the 15 lakh voters in the constituency. Man-animal conflict was a major issue in the election since tigers have killed 25 people since 2017 in 300 villages at the edge of a reserve in the area. Though Verma promised to look into these matters and went on a four-day fast last year to demand compensation for the families of people killed in the tiger attacks, it was not enough to unseat the Gandhis from Pilibhit.