Ever since the CPI censured him in February this year, young party leader and firebrand orator Kanhaiya Kumar is keeping a low profile, giving rise to speculation over his future.
The censure motion was passed against him in the last week of January for allegedly misbehaving with the party’s office secretary in Patna on December 1, 2020.
Although Kanhaiya maintained a silence over the censure motion, his “lack of interest” in Bihar’s politics as well as also in various burning issues is intriguing, prompting speculation if all is well between him and the party.
Nearly two weeks after he was censured by the party, Kanhaiya met a minister and key aide of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Ashok Choudhary, triggering another round of speculation over his next move.
Responding to it, Ajay Alok, a JD(U) spokesman, said, “Kanhaiya shall be welcome into our party if he chooses to give up his vikrit (perverse) ideology.”
Later, Choudhary sought to downplay the political significance of the meeting by commenting, “People from different parties keep meeting for development related works. Nothing is cooking.”
Sparks had also flown between Kanhaiya and his party during the Lok Sabha election when the CPI reportedly insisted that he share a part of money he had raised through crowd-funding.
Kanhaiya had raised the highest amount of over ₹70 lakh through crowd funding for the election.
From Rabble-rouser to Politician
Kanhaiya first entered the limelight when he made his infamous ‘azadi’ slogan.
BJP uses a term ‘tukde tukde gang’ to refer to alleged sympathisers of separatists.
Taking on the BJP government, Kanhaiya had said in the past that there was no tukde tukde gang before 2014.
“They call us members of the tukde tukde gang. I am standing here on the road, without covering my face, and admitting that, yes, I am from the tukde tukde gang,” he said.
“We are not breaking the country. We will break the BJP,” he said, sharpening his attack on the saffron party.
Kanhaiya is also among 10 main accused in a sedition case, filed against him. In its chargesheet, the Delhi Police have claimed that Kanhaiya led a procession and supported — along with others named as accused — seditious slogans raised on the JNU campus on February 9, 2016, during an event to mark the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
Kanhaiya, a former Jawaharlal Nehru Students Union (JNUSU) president, had unsuccessfully contested the last Lok Sabha election against BJP firebrand leader Giriraj Singh, known for his hard Hindutva politics, from Begusarai, also called the Leningrad of Bihar.
His foray into electoral politics generated much hype across the country as many top celebrities, from Bollywood like Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azami, Prakash Raj and Swara Bhaskar, campaigned for him.
Kanhaiya was trounced by Singh by a margin of over four lakh votes. But it is also equally true that Kanhaiya had managed to get 2.69 lakh votes in the Bhumihar-dominated constituency of Begusarai. Both Kanhaiya and Singh belong to Bhumihar caste, a highly influential caste in Bihar.
Kanhaiya had also launched Jan Gan Yatra – a state-wide tour of Bihar against the CAA/NRC backed by Left and opposition parties – before the state assembly election. He was attacked at least nine times by his rivals during the campaign. He addressed 62 rallies across the state’s 38 districts over four weeks. But Kanhaiya could not take his battle against the BJP to the next level. There is an undeniable fact that amid the presence of young leaders like Tejaswi Yadav and Chirag Paswan, Kanhaiya is finding it difficult to create much political space for himself in Bihar.
Despite his failure to emerge as a strong face against the BJP at a later stage, Bihar CPI president Ram Naresh Pandey said Kanhaiya has a lot of potential and he is making very meaningful contributions for the growth of the party in the state. Kanhaiya is regularly participating in the party’s programmes, albeit his visits to the state might be not finding much space in the media, he added.
The CPI should consider “relaunching” him, particularly after it passed a resolution against him, by utilising his oratory skills to the fullest, said a political observer, Kamal Kant Sahay.
”Since Kanhaiya’s image was battered to some extent after he was censured by his party, CPI should project him afresh,” he said. “Without this, both CPI and Kanhaiya will suffer.”
Can Kanhaiya drive the narrative against the BJP?
Since Kanhaiya is not very much visible on the ground, he has failed to make any significant contribution in building public opinion against the BJP in Bihar.
Even on this count, Kanhaiya has ceded ground to Tejaswi, who keeps making scathing attacks on the BJP.
Hamstrung by harsh realities of coalition politics, Kanhaiya, who was inducted into the CPI’s national executive council in 2019, has not been assigned any task that matches his high position in the party.
“Surprisingly, Kanhaiya is keeping a low profile even when he is holding such a high position in the party. His party perhaps does not allow him to adopt a very aggressive posturing that can baffle RJD leader Tejaswi, particularly when the CPI is part of the RJD-led grand alliance in Bihar,” a political analyst said.
In the 2020 Bihar assembly election, Kanhaiya was the star campaigner of his party but still he had not addressed many election meetings, contrary to expectations. It was even speculated that there was a tacit understanding between the RJD and CPI to ensure that Kanhaiya’s mass appeal does not overshadow the face of Tejaswi, the chief ministerial candidate of the grand alliance, comprising RJD, Congress and left parties.
On the other hand, Tejaswi addressed on average 12 rallies in a day, while even Chirag on an average addressed eight rallies during the campaign.
Interestingly, Tejaswi also avoided sharing dais with Kanhaiya during the electioneering even when the RJD and CPI were electoral partners.
Should Kanhaiya Change His Style?
Kanhaiya should not expect much from his political career if he continues to stick to his present style, the political analyst said. He said Kanhaiya had even faced wrath of voters for his ‘azadi’ slogan during the Lok Sabha election. Political analyst Dr Sanjay Kumar said that Kanhaiya has not been very helpful to the CPI due to his style of politics. After showing great promise as a young politician, he is now confined only to attending party programmes. A senior journalist on the condition of anonymity said Kanhaiya is suffering from his arrogant behaviour and that’s why he is even reluctant to meet RJD leader Tejaswi Yadav to chalk out a common programme to attack the BJP in the state.
In an era of coalition politics, leaders have to accommodate each others’ views and if Kanhaiya has to succeed, he has to scale down from his extreme views, said another political analyst.