Youth follows Kanhaiya to Begusarai from Delhi, Rajasthan, Maharashtra
A first-timer to the parliamentary elections, Kanhaiya Kumar (32), former president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU), is turning out to be a big draw for the first-time voters of Begusarai.
The young have been rallying behind him ever since Kanhaiya joined the fray as a CPI candidate from Begusarai, a stronghold of the Left till 1996.
“His thought process is absolutely clear and he does not mince any words,” said Abhay Kumar, 19, who calls Kanhaiya a youth icon.
Dheeraj Kumar, 20, is also enthusiastic about Kanhaiya’s cause. “The man has substance and speaks with conviction. His oratory skills are excellent. We need more such young leaders to give our country direction,” he says.
What appeals to the youth most in Begusarai, nearly 130 kms to the east of Patna, is Kanhaiya’s stardom ever since he was charged with sedition as a JNUSU leader in 2016. For Kanhaiya, life has changed ever since, says his younger brother Prince Kumar.
The youth comprise a sizeable chunk of his ‘jan samvaad’ (public meetings), which he has been attending here for the past one year.
“Begusarai will attain international recognition if Kanhaiya wins,” said Amit Kumar, a staunch CPI supporter.
Kanhaiya’s core team also comprises the youth. Dhananjay, who hails from East Champaran, is closely associated with Kanhaiya through the AISF since his days at the College of Commerce in Patna. He now shadows Kanhaiya as his ‘man Friday’.
Kanhaiya’s JNU connection has also followed him to Begusarai. JNU alumni Abhishek Kundan, Hemant Kumar, Fayaz, Suvesh, Rashmi and Sonam Goyal have pitched their tents here. Besides, Shashank from Benaras Hindu University and Shahnawaz from the Jamia Millia Islamia university in Delhi are also here to mobilise support for Kanhaiya.
Rajasthan’s Sonam Goyal, who awaits her Ph.D degree from JNU, having completed her M.Phil and research from the School of Social Sciences between 2011 and 2018, came over to has been camping in Begusarai since March 29.
Suraiya Panjabi, an instrumentation engineer, who is also an artist and a poetess in Marathi and Hindi, reached here from Amravati in Maharashtra on March 30.
Her younger sister, Khushee Panjabi, has just written her class 12 exams and joined Kanhaiya’s campaign.
The troika of Sonam, Suraiya and Khushee are handling the women’s cell of Kanhaiya’s campaign.
“We are building the women’s campaign team, coordinating his campaign, talking to women, gauging their mood and helping in building brand Kanhaiya,” said Sonam, who has been closely associated with Kanhaiya since his stint at JNU between 2011 and 2018.
“We believe there is segregation here between men and women voters and the manner in which they think. Women do not come naturally to election rallies. So, we act to bridge the divide and begin by chatting up with elder women and trying to convince them. Women are vocal. They are willing to discuss issues. Most are honest enough to admit that they follow men when it comes to exercising their franchise,” she says.
A call from Suraiya’s friend at JNU was enough to connect her with Kanhaiya and she willingly came to Begusarai.
“Kanhaiya’s thoughts are inspiring. His life’s journey has been equally inspiring and the youth look up to him as their hero. At present, the youth is inactive in politics and go by what the family decides. We want to reverse the trend. Together with Kanhaiya, Jignesh Mevani (an independent MLA from Vadgam in Gujarat), and Congress’s Hardik Patel, who led the Patidar reservation agitation, I want more youth to take the centre stage in politics,” says Suraiya.
The three women have left the comfort of their homes and are not averse to the grime and dust in the hinterlands of Begusarai as they hit the road early in their effort to mobilise support and catapult their youth leader to the Parliament.
First-time voters comprise over 2 lakh of the over 19 lakh electorate in Begusarai, which goes to polls in the fourth phase on April 29.
Kanhaiya is pitted in a triangular fight with Central minister Giriraj Singh of the BJP and Tanvir Hasan of the Rashtriya Janata Dal.
19 lakh: Total number of voters
2 lakh: First-time voters
April 29: Polling day
The three contenders
Giriraj Singh: BJP
Tanvir Hasan: RJD