Kanhaiya Kumar and Jignesh Mewani joined the Congress on 28 September the day Navjot Singh Sidhu resigned as State President of Punjab BJP. While Sidhu said he would not do a compromise, the overall message of the newcomer was quite the contrary.
“The collapse of a man’s character stems from the compromise corner, I can never compromise on Punjab’s future and the agenda for the welfare of Punjab”. The case of Kanhaiya and Mewani was quite the contrary. For them, a compromise was the reason for joining the party and a way to save Congress from becoming a sinking ship.
Both were lying publicly and imagining that people would not see through their game plan. First about Mevani since he did not join the Congress but gave his ideological commitment to revive the party. He was under impression that youths of the country would follow him and Kanhaiya. How can youths of the country side with people who are identified with tukde tukde gang and the Bhima Koregaon incident that led to caste riots? Youths of the country would never get fascinated with such opportunists.
Mewani’s role in the Bhima Koregaon case is questionable. No amount of political clout would exonerate him unless he gets cleared by the Court. And the person who claims to be a follower of Dr BR Ambedkar has joined a party that created roadblocks on the political aspirations of Babasaheb. Needless to mention that Mevani had won the Vadgam Assembly seat from Gujarat in 2017 as an independent candidate but was supported by Congress. It would not be wrong to say that Congress had sponsored his candidature.
And what a brilliant way to say that he was sharing the dais with the Congress at the party headquarters and will support the Congress but will not join the party due to technical reasons. He is surely going to contest the Gujarat Assembly elections next year on a Congress ticket. Resigning would have sent a better message and that you are ready to sacrifice at least a few things for an ideology and the platform which you claim is the right one for the country. Honesty was missing.
Navjot Singh Sidhu was supposed to be the real power centre in Punjab since Charanjit Singh Channi new job came because of Sidhu’s revolt. Had it not been Captain Amarinder Singh’s strong objections, he would have become the chief minister. Channi decided not to play puppet or show that he was a stop-gap arrangement. After all, he is a Dalit and a leader in his own right. The showdown was done in key appointments. Sidhu who was to lead the Punjab Congress and add his charisma to the campaign was clearly sidelined. Hence, the resignation is not a sacrifice but an attempt to ensure that none other than him gets the Congress legacy after Amarinder Singh.
The crucial issue is whether he had the backing from someone from the Gandhi family. He cannot go beyond a point without such backing. The way a compromise is being worked out instead of reprimand or suspension, it seems the experiment in Punjab Congress with Sidhu in the lead would continue. Both Channi and Sidhu would be puppets of Rahul Gandhi now and he can pitch one against the other.
Kanhaiya’s case is curious. He extolled the virtues of Shaheed Bhagat Singh but did not mind joining a party that did not do anything to save him. It was Congress that allowed the British narrative on Bhagat Singh to continue. The book written by Bipan Chandra had described him as a “revolutionary terrorist” (the word terrorist was dropped later after objections from Bhagat Singh’s nephew Abhey Singh Sandhu). Even the British had used the word revolutionary for Bhagat Singh.
The book titled “India›s Struggle for Independence” which was a part of the curriculum of Delhi University for over two decades described Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad and Surya Sen as “revolutionary terrorists”. The book was written by Bipin Chandra and Mridula Mukherjee- the two flag bearers of Congress narrative. Imagine this was being taught to history students till 2016. The Congress has had no love for revolutionaries in any case. It is common knowledge that Congress did not do enough to save Bhagat Singh from the gallows.
Kanhaiya appeared juvenile when he vowed to save “the big ship Congress to save the country”. It must have been pitiable for senior Congress leaders to hear the newcomer calling the Congress a sinking ship that must be saved. So, the new saviour is a 30 plus armed chair revolutionary who shot into the limelight by the slogan of “Bharat tere tukde honge….” And “Azadi, Azadi…”
Politics is not a T-20 cricket game where you hire an ideologue and he would give you victory. It is a vocation of patience and perseverance. You have to work from the bottom of the pyramid and build your organisation block by block. These two new youngsters appear to be in a hurry of their own creation. There is every likelihood that they would become desperate and would surpass Sidhu in all respects.
At the young age of 34, if you don’t stand for the ideology that you lived by when you were in campus and also later it smacks of sheer opportunism. After being in the All India Student Federation (AISF) during student politics days and later the parent organisation, the Communist Party of India (CPI), one is expected to try to spread the ideology. The CPI made him contest from Begusarai, which was once the citadel of the Communists. The party accommodated him at the highest decision-making bodies despite the fact that it is really tough to rise so fast in a cadre-based organisation. But the man appears to be in a hurry. He says his inspiration is Shaheed Bhagat Singh but forgets that his life was not based on compromises.
Becoming a turncoat at such a short duration means you are aware that the Left has no future in Bihar or at the national level. One can try to be a part of Congress and do one’s politics. There are many instances where people from the Left cadre have joined the Congress since political opportunities in the Left is almost negligible. Of late the Congress has become an open platform for such rebels. Earlier also, Congress benefitted from this recruitment but it used to be selective.
There has been a trend in JNU that those who do student politics normally come from streams that are not considered very tough. Kanhaiya has done his studies from African Studies. His PhD is on The Process of Decolonisation and Social Transformation in South Africa, 1994-2015. How is this going to help Indian society and what must have been his thought while joining this Centre and also doing a Doctorate on such a topic? It is quite evident that coming from Left background, he wanted to do politics in JNU and also ensure a career in academics. Concessional hostel and food ensure that one can prolong student life till late in one’s age.
Any serious student would join mainstream social science streams for which JNU is well respected. The real scholarship is tested there and one does not get enough time to do student politics. So, any youngster conscious about accountability would ask how are your studies going to help you in furthering the cause of the country. You don’t have to go to South Africa to understand Indian society.
This analysis is not to undermine Kanhaiya’s desire to gain political prominence. This is to make youths ponder over those who claim to represent them and not be misguided. Will they like to be identified with such people who join politics with such tall claims or those who have worked hard, make a name for themselves in professional fields and then decide to contribute to society by joining politics. Whether a struggling cricketer, who fails and then join politics, will be a role model or someone like Gautam Gambhir, who showed his mettle and then joined politics.
It is good if younger people with merit join politics and we should welcome if people from different fields join since politics can’t be a bastion only for rabble-rousers or people who have money or muscle power. Only if more and more credible people join politics, there are chances of it getting cleansed. I was happy when media person Ashutosh from JNU joined politics. He had all the right credentials such as background, excellence and understanding of society. But I felt extremely cheated when due to competitive politics he added the title of Gupta to his name when he contested Lok Sabha elections from Chandni Chowk. He wanted to look more attractive to predominantly Bania voters. This was shocking. We expect better standards from such people.
It is difficult to say whether Kanhaiya would get a chance to revive the Congress or save it. Rahul Gandhi, who has not given chance to much better-placed leaders such as Himanta Biswa Sarma, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada, Rita Bahuguna and many others would not give freedom or respect to these leaders too. And these people, with no organisational experience, are likely to be sucked in by the organisational politics within the Congress.
Rahul Gandhi has through his action clarified to everyone that he would be more comfortable in the company of rabble-rousers and student leaders 20 years younger than the company of 20 years seniors who are keen to impart wisdom to him. He has strengthened the BJP’s narrative that the Congress is a platform for those who are opposed to India’s unity and integrity and hence can’t be trusted.
He is getting surrounded by people who would oppose the BJP- RSS- Modi whenever they open their mouths and would further consolidate the already polarised voters. Whether it is spokespersons or new leaders, the premium is put on these qualities rather than substance. Earlier, it used to be Digvijay Singh, Mani Shankar Aiyar, and P. Chidambaram.
The writer is the convener of the Media Relations Department of the BJP and represents the party as a spokesperson on TV debates. He has authored the book ‘Narendra Modi: The Game Changer’. The views expressed are personal.
Kanhaiya appeared juvenile when he vowed to save “the big ship Congress to save the country”. It must have been pitiable for senior Congress leaders to hear the newcomer calling the Congress a sinking ship that must be saved.