In Kanhaiya’s inaugural speech, a dash of new lingo and call for greater unity
Announcing that India needs Bhagat Singh’s courage, Mahatma Gandhi’s unity, and BR Ambedkar’s equality, Kanhaiya Kumar, one of India’s prominent young politicians, joined the Congress from the oldest Communist party on Tuesday.
His entry marked a new chapter in the Congress’ efforts to unite forces from different spectrums of polity to take on the formidable Bharatiya Janata Party led by PM Narendra Modi.
Kanhaiya’s inaugural speech, a dash of a new lingo invoking a host of freedom fighters and a call for greater unity, repeatedly mentioned “this is time for urgency” and hailed the Congress as the only force that “can lead in this ideological war to save the idea of India.”
He also clarified, “I alone can’t do anything,” echoed many pet talking points of Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and pointed out that “out of 545 Lok Sabha seats, 200 seats are where the Congress is in a direct fight with the BJP.”
Independent MLA in Gujarat, Jignesh Mevani, sitting beside Kumar, also pledged support to the Congress. He didn’t officially join the party as it would result in losing his assembly membership. But the entry of these two firebrand young leaders was a welcome relief for the Congress that has lost at least three key young leaders such as Jyotiraditya Scindia, Himanta Biswa Sharma and Jitin Prasad in recent years to the BJP.
Both Mevani and Kumar harped on the need for larger participation of people. While the Gujarat MLA hoped to create the “charm and ambience of the freedom struggle”, Kumar said, “when the entire shopping mall is on fire, you can’t save your shop” indicating a larger fight against the BJP.
Kumar wasted no time in hitting out at the Sangh Parivar and even compared PM Modi with Bollywood actor Govinda for frequently changing attires. “Which pariwar would ask people to shun their families to join the pariwar?” he said, hinting at the RSS. He invoked Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Azad, Sarojini Naidu, Jagjivan Ram Bhagat Singh, Ashfakulla Khan, Buddha, Kabir, Nanak and said, “Many people felt if the Congress doesn’t survive, the country won’t survive.”
Mevani claimed that “the story that started in Gujarat” has now led to devastation in the country. “It’s a war against democracy, Constitution and idea of India,” the MLA said, “If we have to save all these, we have to be a part of the party that fought freedom struggle.” He also announced that he will fight the next assembly election, due next year, on the Congress ticket.
He acknowledged that he was “born” in the CPI, but left it as “we need to speed up our struggle and open up our ideological barrier.” Kumar announced that he doesn’t take the BJP seriously and quipped, “Those who sought clemency, have now become Veer (a dig at Savarkar). Those who vowed to create a Godse’s India, are now chanting Gandhi’s name” to underline how the political legacy is now being diluted.
He announced that he will be taking some responsibility in the organization. Both Mevani and Kumar repeatedly referred to Rahul Gandhi and echoed his lines.
Congress general secretary (organization) KC Venugopal described Kumar as “a symbol of fighting freedom of expression” and said, “the way he fought against fundamentalism throughout his student period, his joining will enthuse cadre of Congress party.”
“Jignesh is also fighting for the same cause. Jignesh believed in Congress ideology to carry everybody along. It will give a very strong message that young people fighting for needy, poor people, fighting for freedom, non-violence are joining the Congress,” he said.
Mevani presented a copy of the Indian Constitution to Rahul Gandhi while Kanhaiya gave him a photo of Mahatma Gandhi, Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh.