Kanhaiya takes a back seat as RJD’s CM nomineeTejashwi grabs poll limelight in Bihar
While top politicians have been campaigning extensively in Bihar for the coming assembly elections, CPI’s star campaigner and former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar has kept a low profile.
Till date, the 33-year-old leader, who unsuccessfully contested against Union minister Giriraj Singh from Begusarai in the 2019 parliamentary polls, has addressed only three public meetings -- at Bakhri, Teghra (both in Begusarai district) and Benipatti in Madhubani respectively -- since October 12.
While party insiders said Kanhaiya’s schedule for the second and the third phase is not yet final, indicating he might address a few more rallies, his absence from the campaign has only given currency to several theories.
There is a perception that this is being done as per a tacit understanding between RJD and the Left party to ensure that Kanhaiya’s mass appeal does not overshadow RJD’s chief ministerial face Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, who is also the face of the RJD-Congress-Left grand alliance( GA). The 31-year-old Yadav scion has been addressing six to seven back-to-back rallies for the past few days.
“We do not know whether Kanhaiya would campaign jointly with Tejashwi. The party is deciding the campaign schedule and Kanhaiya goes wherever he is asked to. His schedule for next few days is being prepared,” said Dhananjay, a close associate of the CPI leader.
Dhananjay , however, refuted the theories that Kanhaiya was maintaining a low profile as part of some sort of understanding between RJD and left parties to ensure that Tejashwi remains in spotlight. “ These are just speculations.There are demands for Kanhaiya from RJD and GA candidates but he is following the party’s instructions,” he said.
There is also a buzz that Kanhaiya, whose rise in the CPI has been meteoric, is apparently not happy with the old brigade taking centre stage following the change of guard at the state organisation after the death of state president Satyanarain Singh two months ago.
Sources said it was Singh who had backed Kanhaiya to revive the party’s sagging fortunes and went on to say that “if RJD has Tejashwi, CPI has Kanhaiya” at a party rally in Gandhi Maidan before the 2019 polls. In 2019, RJD had fielded its nominee against Kanhaiya from Begusarai.
Party insiders said the demise of Singh just before the assembly polls has seen a steady marginalisation of the youth camp in the party, much to the discomfiture of Kanhaiya.
Recently, several youth leaders, including members of AISF( All India Students Wing) , an outfit in which Kanhaiya was active in his JNU days, had held a demonstration outside the state CPI office protesting against the selection of party candidates in this election, sources said. The protests were also against state unit president Ram Naresh Pandey, who is a party veteran, reports said.
CPI is contesting six seats:
“There are internal contradictions within the CPI and Kanhaiya is facing resistance from a section of the party over his growing stature. It is believed to be one reason why he has not actively campaigned in this election,” said a senior Left party leader, wishing not to be quoted.
He also said Kanhaiya’s Jan Gan yatra – a statewide tour of Bihar against CAA/NRC backed by Left and opposition parties - did not get the traction the CPI had expected, resulting in the party changing its track to count more on senior leaders. “The lockdown affected the party in spreading its base in Bihar ahead of the polls,” agreed a youth leader of the CPI.
Party’s state president, Pandey, who filed his nomination from Harlakhi seat, could not be reached for comments due to network issues. “Kanhaiya is in big demand for campaigning. There is a coordination committee of RJD, Congress and Left parties which decides the campaigning schedule...These are baseless theories that Kanhaiya is being sidelined,” said Indu Bhushan, a senior state CPI leader. When contacted, Kanhaiya conveyed through a text message that he was busy in a meeting and would talk later.