Poll Decisions Based on Vote Math, Not Ideological Values: Kanhaiya Kumar on Grand Alliance Snub
Kanhaiya Kumar also slammed the Niti Aayog for acting as a government mouthpiece and warned that the space for dissent in the country is being threatened.
File photo of former JNU Student Union’s president Kanhaiya Kumar. (PTI)
When the Bihar opposition grand alliance announced its seat sharing formula for all 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state for the upcoming general elections, the name of former Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union’s president and prominent face of young Left politics, Kanhaiya Kumar, was curiously missing from the list. Kumar, who is contesting the elections on a CPI ticket from Begusarai, speaks to News18 about his reason for taking the political plunge, slams the Niti Ayog for acting as a government mouthpiece and the importance of dissent in a democracy. Edited excerpts:
You always maintained that you would not join politics and pursue academics instead. How did the change happen?
Academics is still my choice but I have been chosen by politics. Despite being busy, I have submitted my Ph.D thesis and got a degree. I have entered politics because of the alarming situation in the country where even a university like JNU, which is my second home, is being targeted. The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is known for venting out its political stand and that is why other people and I get targeted. If this situation is not countered now, the democracy will go in a direction that is not worthwhile. People feel that politicians make hollow promises and don’t adhere to their commitments. In the current Indian political scenario, the elected government is destroying its own institutes.
Many government institutions such as the Election Commission, RBI, etc., have been targeted. The functioning of the Niti Ayaog is no better than that of Yojana Ayog — it is only affirming the policies of the government. The whole world is calling demonetisation a disaster but the Niti Ayog is supporting it.
It is visible that the government is reducing university budget and making it difficult for pupils to study. The government is bent on destroying democratic institutions and it is alarming because a democracy can only sustain when democratic values are strong in a social structure. However, I am happy that democratic values are sustained and we have to continue with the democratic set-up to save our diverse country. If democratic institutes are not saved, who will pursue democracy?
Are attacks on the democratic values of JNU the reason why you took the political plunge?
See, I will not lie. It is not that I joined politics post the advent of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I also opposed the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) policies during the Manmohan Singh government. Back then, they either listened to us or ignored us. But today, dissent is being treated as anti-national and JNU has been termed as a place for anti-nationals. Having been the president of the university, I have also been targeted without the verification of truth.
The leaders of the Bihar opposition grand alliance praised you when you were bailed out over sedition charges, but didn’t induct you in the grand alliance. Is your age the reason why Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Prasad blocked your entry into the alliance?
Electoral decisions are based on the arithmetic calculation of votes and not on the values one subscribes to. The situation for sure will be different after election results are out. Pre-election is all about the number of votes one has but the post-election political situation will change. When sedition charges were framed against me, JNU tried to reason it out by stating that if prestigious institute can be targeted, how will commoners be safe?
All political parties supported me and hence it was my duty to thank them after getting bail from the court. But the political affiliation depends on their future plans and arithmetic. Nitish Kumar became part of the NDA and so he can’t be with us. If you ask Nitish and Tejashwi if I am anti-national, they will surely respond with a clear ‘no’. I am not worried about the political alliance as commoners like farmers and tea-stall owners support us and that is more important for me.
Communists are not known for air-dropping leaders but you have been trusted. Is there any discontent at the local level?
You are right, we don’t have a culture of air-dropping. This is another false propaganda being propagated against me. I have been recommended by the Begusarai district community with unanimity and it has rarely happened in the internal meeting of a Communist party that there is unanimity over the choice of a candidate. I am born and brought up in Begusarai and calling me an outsider is strange.
Who is in direct contest against you, BJP leader Giriraj Singh or Tanveer Hasan of the RJD?
My fight is against the propaganda, loot and deceit, and not against any individual.
Do you think people will vote for you because you are a Bhumihar?
I am at loggerheads because of being a Bhumihar. Bhumihars are of the view that I don’t subscribe to their thoughts, while other castes brand me as Bhumihar. You can see that many grand alliance partners have targeted me because of my caste.
Why should the people of Begusarai vote for you?
The reasons are various. If people vote for me, they get an active politician for 25 years. My network across India and the globe is stronger than theirs. For example, if a friend of mine is working for the UNICEF and I want to bring some projects to Begusarai, it will be achievable. You know, after I announced my candidature from Begusarai, the place has become famous. It is a prestigious seat for the Prime Minister and I am challenging him directly. So, Begusarai shall get a special package and a strong parliamentarian. Had I not been contesting from here, you would have not come all the way from Delhi to interview me.
The election is increasingly becoming personality-based and not fought on issues important for the country. Why is that so?
We are not fighting an issue-less election and are, in fact, raising issues of roads, hospitals and universities. However, the government is diverting people from real issues because of the fear that people will question them about their work. The government is indulging in falsehood and propaganda and, sometimes, the Opposition also succumbs to this pressure.
Do you think people relate to you as someone who can revive Communism… as someone like Chandrashekhar Singh who is regarded as the man who built the Communist Party of India in Bihar?
Comrade Chandrashekhar Babu worked for the downtrodden throughout his life. The Communist Party of India has always worked for the betterment of the people. In 1996, MP Shatrughan Prasad Singh was facilitated for setting up the Indian Institute of Maize Research. In 2009, due to delimitation, the Balia Lok Sabha became Begusarai. Post that, there was no such institute established. The people remember that.
You talked about encompassing all but the Communist spread seems to have reduced. The RSS and the Communist Party of India were formed in the same year, in 1925. How come the parties grew but your influence reduced?
The demography of our society has changed. The character of the labour class has transformed and the previous concept of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ changed. The ideological changes and slogans are yet to surface. A few people attribute this shrinkage to a change in the caste configuration, but castes do not exist in Russia. Then how did shrinking happen there as well? It’s because change is the law of nature and everything has to evolve accordingly. The BJP grew from two to 282 and now its growth phase is over. The party will not grow now but Communists will resurrect.
What will be your priorities if you win these elections?
My priority is to induce qualitative changes in the infrastructure of education, health and transport. I shall work on the basic infrastructure of Begusarai.
PM Narendra Modi was recently awarded Russia's highest civilian honour. Comment.
I don’t know much about this particular award but some of the awards in the past were managed and the world knew about it. The credibility of such awards and institutes is known to be compromised.
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