The communist party of India (CPI) has selected the erstwhile JNU student leader, Kanhaiya Kumar as its candidate in the ensuing Lok Sabha election from Begusarai, Bihar. The selection has generated a huge debate in the media, especially in the social media. Broadly there are two sides to the debate: (a) largely urban elite secular left-liberal forces, especially from the metropolis Delhi and Mumbai, are thrilled with Kanhaiya’s candidature; this is reflected in the broad coverage and endorsement of big corporate media, both in print and television, (b) local anti-BJP largely subaltern forces, especially those covered by the Mahagathbandhan (Grand alliance, GA), consisting of muslims, dalits, mahadalits, OBCs etc. are against Kanhaiya’s candidature in the sense that they support the GA candidate Tanveer Hasan.
(i) The total political and moral bankruptcy of the largely elite left stands exposed once again on the Kanhaiya Kumar issue. The student activist from JNU wants to go straight from his JNU hostel to the Indian Parliament on the basis of a few entertaining speeches. He has never worked in trade union, peasant movement, not even for slum dwellers. He has not been elected in panchayat, gram sabha, municipality, state assembly. Nothing. He is just an artificial social media phenomenon. And the left wants him to represent the people of India in the Parliament. Because that's all the left has. Pity.
(ii) With Amit Shah confirming Giriraj Singh's candidature from Begusarai, I wonder if it's a wise decision of the left to field Kanhaiya Kumar. Not only will he cut into anti-BJP votes even if in a small way, a resounding defeat at the beginning of a political career could be counter-productive, especially after such a big hype in the social media. I am reminded of all those seasoned activists--Medha Patkar, Uday Kumar, Soni Sori, Damayanti Balra--fielded by AAP in 2014. Most of them lost deposits. All of them have disappeared from the scene.
(iii) Some left academics from Delhi are planning to campaign for Kanhaiya Kumar in Begusarai. Personally I am glad that a section of the elite left has finally found something to do in the ground in this historic election. Politically, however, campaigning ONLY for Kanhaiya must be viewed as a sectarian act of an elite clan. If the campaign is to be politically significant, they must fan out in Delhi and its neighbourhood to campaign for other non-BJP candidates. This is what a significant number of academics from DU, Jamia and JNU did in 2004. That 'BJP hatao, Desh bachao' campaign not only challenged BJP’s 'India Shining' propaganda among the people, it actually affected voting in at least 20 seats.
(iv) Despite obvious moral and political problems, why is the elite left-liberal intelligentsia so enthusiastic about Kanhaiya Kumar’s candidature? It is because Kanhaiya Kumar is a huge relief for the massive social guilt of elite left liberals. He is at once from their ranks, a JNU PhD, and from dusty Bihar. Somewhat like my friend Arindam Chakravarty, at once an Oxonian and a sadhu. So far, yet so near.
(v) Those who are supporting and campaigning for Kanhaiya Kumar need to reflect on the fact that he'll significantly cut into the vote of Tanvir Hassan, the RJD candidate. Shri Hassan does not carry the glamour of Lutyen's Delhi and JNU, he is not actively promoted in mainstream corporate TV and social media. Nidhi Rajhdan and Rajdeep Sardesai will never call him for prime time interview. He is probably not even a fine orator pleasing to elite ears. Yet, Shri Hassan, a long time grassroots politician of the area, put up a brave fight against BJP in 2014 during the massive Modi wave and a disintegrated opposition. He received over 4 lakh votes and lost by just about 50, 000 votes. Who is more likely to defeat the pompous, powerful but disgusting Giriraj Singh? Isn't Kanhaiya's candidature making it easy for BJP?
(vi) Kanhaiya's candidature from Begusarai is once again an act of ugly opportunism by the elite left. The left has been roundly rejected by the people across the country. Instead of rectifying its ghastly mistakes, the opportunist left desperately needs someone to make their presence felt in these historic elections. Kanhaiya is the stage-show for this purpose. As a consequence, it paves the way for the disgusting don Giriraj Singh to win.
(vii) From what I can gather from the ground, rank and file of the grand alliance GA are furious that Kanhaiya Kumar has been fielded against the veteran and popular alliance candidate Shri Tanvir Hassan of RJD. Not surprisingly. In this connection, here are some very sane observations on the Kanhaiya Kumar issue from the ground. Apparently, GA workers in the ground are marshalling their resources to oppose Kanhaiya, a bhumihar. For them, it might actually mean subalterns fighting 'communists'. I won't be surprised if it even acquires a more direct caste and communal colour. Disaster, especially in view of the fact that the BJP candidate Giriraj Singh is a bhumihar mafia don with associations with the murderous Ranvir Sena. It'll be a pity if Kanhaiya and Giriraj are clubbed together in the people's eyes.
(viii) More gory details on Kanhaiya Kumar's nomination coming out. While he enjoys impressive support in corporate and social media, his elite fan club won't save him in Begusarai. Instead, the rifts and conflicts that his nomination has generated will take both him and the alliance down, paving the way for the notorious Giriraj Singh.
"The RJD has been a very strong force. Even in the so-called (Narendra) Modi wave during the 2014 election, our candidate got almost four lakh votes and since then, he has never left Begusarai. It was impossible for us to set aside Hasan's candidature. We have a strong cadre that wanted Hasan and there is nothing we could have done. And, this became a deal-breaker"
"According to sources in the CPI's Bihar unit, there was also discontentment among a section of leaders about the party nominating Kumar and compromising on the alliance."
(ix) Despite the misleading title, this video from Begusarai conclusively proves that Kanhaiya Kumar will be roundly defeated in the election. For people in the ground, the fight is really between Giriraj Singh (BJP) and Tanvir Hasan (RJD). Remember that RJD is part of a very strong GA which includes Congress and other smaller parties with definite vote-bank. They'll all campaign and vote for Tanvir Hasan. And of course the entire muslim and some upper caste vote will also go to Hasan due to the inclusion of Congress in GA. Kanhaiya does not have even a remote chance.
Instead of pumping up Kanhaiya's case to boost their fashionable leftism, armchair elite lefties from Delhi and Mumbai will do well to advise Kanhaiya Kumar to gracefully withdraw from the race, and join the GA campaign for Tanvir Hasan. Otherwise, people's anger will keep building up and his massive defeat will destroy his nascent political career. If he withdraws and joins the common fight against BJP, he'll earn the love and respect of people which will be a political asset in the long run.
Kanhaiya Kumar is a fine, talented young man who has many decades of illustrious political career in hand. But this is not his election.
(x) Superb piece on Begusarai and Kanhaiya in the context of caste-history of Bihar and the contribution of Lalu Yadabji. After a long and powerful analytical survey, the article advises Kanhaiya (and the elite left-liberals) to leave Begusarai alone, and fight directly against Modi in Benares. That's what Kanhaiya is more equipped for.
(xi) Social and corporate media is full of Kanhaiya coverage. There are write-ups and interviews everywhere. Kanhaiya's speeches are widely circulated in social media. Funds are overflowing. Now big-time filmstars, writers, activists will be campaigning in Begusarai. The real representative of Begusarai, Tanveer Hassan, the man who received nearly four lakh votes during the Modi wave and a fragmented opposition in 2014, is the official candidate of the Mahagathbandhan. He is nowhere in the scene. If I was not crippled by acute diabetes and cortical ischemia, I would have parked myself in Begusarai too. For Tanveer Hassan.
If Kanhaiya happens to win due to saturation coverage, he will replicate the Modi phenomenon.