With the formal induction of former JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, formerly with the Communist Party of India (CPI), into the Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi has made what was hitherto well-known but unofficial — official: Congress is the new Left.
Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani was also set to join the Congress Party on Tuesday but ended up extending his support, explaining that since he was elected as an Independent candidate, he would cease to be a state lawmaker if he joined the party.
In embracing two of India’s self-made, bright young stars, both articulate and with a flair for public speaking, Rahul Gandhi may have also thrown the gauntlet at the old and not-so-old guard of his own party.
His signal to them seems to be that, tired of waiting for new ideas to come from them, he has finally decided to go talent-scouting and do, as smart business people often do, some lateral induction. The old guard can either go along with his decision or leave.
That he decided to bring in Kanhaiya knowing fully well that he would bring along the baggage of the JNU “tukde-tukde gang” controversy shows that, finally, Rahul is ready to take the necessary risks, without which the Opposition can’t expect to fight the Narendra Modi government and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
The new entrants also seem yet another indicator of the growing clout of Rahul and his sister’s, Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra, close aide Sandeep Singh, another Left-JNU import, who was JNUSU chief in 2007 and who is mainly, along with the CPM chief Sitaram Yechury, responsible for the Left-of-centre shift so visible in the Congress politics in recent times.
What began with the recent decision to dump charismatic but non-performing Captain Amarinder Singh as Chief Minister of Punjab and replace him with a Dalit face in Charanjit Channi seems to have been taken forward with the new inductions today.
But like most things, the move could turn out to be still-born if Rahul allows his detractors – active as well as passive – within the party to ensure that the plan fails. He will need to engage with the old-timers and convince them of the logic behind his decision. Congress MP Manish Tiwari, even though he couched his message through his choice of words, wasn’t wrong when he warned – via a tweet – that, in view of the entry of “certain Communist leaders” in the Congress, it may not be a bad idea to revisit the book ‘Communists in Congress’ by Mohan Kumarmanglam.
While Tiwari, considered very close to ousted Congress Punjab CM Capt Amarinder, may have his own reason for offering the unsolicited suggestion, his words do carry a ring of truth, one that Rahul Gandhi would do well not to ignore.
Today’s move also signifies something more important than the growing clout of Sandeep Singh and the Leftward tilt that the Congress is taking. It shows that Rahul Gandhi, finally, seems to be realizing that the Congress can’t fight Modi, BJP, and Hindutva with soft-Hindutva.
It needs a new, firmer constituency of liberals, Dalits, and other weaker sections and minorities. It doesn’t require the IQ of an Einstein to understand that the arithmetic of such a combination could well be the tonic that the idea-less Congress needs to counter the BJP.
With farmers in several key states unhappy with the BJP over the continuing farm laws imbroglio, and minorities, especially Muslims, bearing the brunt of growing violence by self-styled protectors of the Hindutva cause, coupled with the fact that most other parties in the opposition space, including Mayawati’s BSP, are afraid of speaking up, the Congress plan may actually work.
All that Rahul needs to do is allows the new entrants the freedom to share their thoughts with those who may be disenchanted with the Modi government and the BJP.
Maneesh Chhibber is a Consulting Editor with India Ahead News. The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author.