Kanhaiya Kumar joins Congress, Jignesh Mevani lends support
Independent MLA in Gujarat, Jignesh Mevani, sitting next to Kumar at an event, also pledged support for the Congress
Announcing that today’s India needs Bhagat Singh’s courage, Mahatma Gandhi’s unity, and BR Ambedkar’s quest for equality, Kanhaiya Kumar, one of India’s prominent young politicians, joined the Congress from the Communist Party of India on Tuesday. His entry marked a new chapter in the Congress’s efforts to unite forces from different spectrums of politics to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2024 elections.
Independent MLA in Gujarat, Jignesh Mevani, sitting next to Kumar at an event, also pledged support for the Congress. He, however, didn’t officially join the party as it would result in him losing his assembly membership.
Kumar’s inaugural speech, with a dash of 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 said: “I alone can’t do anything.” He 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 direct fight with the BJP.”
The entry of the two popular young leaders is seen by experts as a relief for the Congress, which has lost at least three key young leaders -- Jyotiraditya Scindia, Himanta Biswa Sharma and Jitin Prasada-- in the recent years to the BJP. Both Kumar and Mevani earlier joined Rahul Gandhi in garlanding the statue of Bhagat Singh at the Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh Park .
While the Gujarat MLA said he hoped to create the “charm and ambiance 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 hit out at the Sangh Parivar and even compared Prime Minister Narendra Modi with an actor for frequently changing his attire. He invoked Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Azad, Sarojini Naidu, Jagjivan Ram Bhagat Singh, Ashfaqulla Khan, Buddha, Kabir and Nanak, and said: “Many people felt if the Congress doesn’t survive, the country won’t survive.” Mevani said 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 the freedom struggle.”
He also announced that he will fight the next assembly election, due next year, on the Congress’s ticket.
Kumar 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”. He said he doesn’t take the BJP seriously and quipped: “Those who sought clemency, have now become Veer. Those who vowed to create Godse’s India, are now chanting Gandhi’s name.”
He announced that he will be taking on some responsibility in the organisation. Both Mevani and Kumar repeatedly referred to Rahul Gandhi and echoed his lines, especially on how the BJP has become a threat to the idea of India.
Congress general secretary (organization) KC Venugopal described Kumar as “a symbol of fighting for 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.