Former student leader Kanhaiya Kumar today joined the Congress party. He attended the All India Congress Committee headquarters in New Delhi in the presence of party leader Rahul Gandhi. On the occasion, Gujarat Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani also extended his support to the organization, though he could not formally join the party due to technical reasons.
“I am joining the Congress because it is not just a party, it is an idea. It is the oldest and most democratic party in the country, and I am emphasizing ‘democracy’ … not just me, many people think the country cannot survive without the Congress, Mr Mr Kumar said at a press conference after joining the Congress.
“The Congress party is like a big ship. If it is protected, I believe the aspirations of many people, the unity of Mahatma Gandhi, the courage of Bhagat Singh and the idea of equality of BR Ambedkar will also be protected. That is why I have joined it.”
He felt that a particular ideology was trying to destroy India’s values, culture, history and future. He further claimed that “billions of young people” think that “the country cannot be saved without saving the Congress”.
Mr Kumar had previously been with the Communist Party of India (CPI), which he joined before the 2011 general election. He then contested against BJP’s Giriraj Singh from his hometown of Begusarai in Bihar but failed to win.
Posters welcoming him to the party were put up outside the Congress office before his switch. He is said to have met Mr Gandhi twice in the last two weeks. He also met Priyanka Gandhi Bhadra.
Mr Kumar Kumar, former president of the JNU Students’ Union, was jailed for chanting “anti-national slogans” at a ceremony marking the death anniversary of Afzal Guru, the mastermind of the 201st parliamentary attack.
The BJP, however, has downplayed the importance of Kanhaiya’s move.
Bihar Minister Mangal Pandey told ANI that Begusarai had rejected him, adding that Mr Kumar was only displaying his “political ambitions”.
“Begusarai had earlier rejected Kanhiya Kumar’s ideology. Now he is changing his ideology and party for political aspirations but the people do not vote for anyone’s political aspirations. He is going to a party which Bihar has rejected and is now a sinking boat,” Mr Pandey told ANI. .
On the other hand, Mr. Mewani is a representative of Vadgam constituency in Gujarat. He is the key to the congressional vote count before next year’s assembly elections in that state.
A lawyer and former journalist, the Dalit leader’s expression of support for the Congress comes at a time when the party is reaching out to the community – it recently had Charanjit Singh Channy, a Scheduled Caste member, as Punjab Chief Minister, replacing Amarinder Singh.
“For technical reasons I could not officially join the Congress. I am an independent MLA, if I join a party, I cannot continue as an MLA … I am ideologically part of the Congress but will contest the upcoming Gujarat elections from the Congress symbol,” Mr Mr Mewani says.
“To save the idea of democracy and India, I have to be with a party that led the freedom struggle and pulled the British out of the country. That is why I am here with the Congress today.”
Welcoming Mr Kumar, Congress General Secretary Casey Benugopal today said his party was looking forward to working with him and Mr Mewani to defeat the ruling “fascist forces” in the country.
“Kanhaiya Kumar is a symbol of the struggle for freedom of expression in this country. He fought against fundamentalism as a student leader. The joining of a dynamic personality will inspire the entire cadre of the Congress,” Mr Venugopal said.
The move by Mr Kumar Kumar and Mr Mr Mewani comes at a time when some prominent leaders have left the Congress in recent months.
Former women Congress chief Sushmita Dev has joined the Trinamool Congress, but former Union Minister Jitin Prasad is now with the BJP. Veteran Goa Congress leader Luisinho Faleiro resigned from the party yesterday.