The name Kanhaiya Kumar evokes different feelings in everyone. Some people emit straight up expletives, while some dive into a tirade about how the “Tukde Tukde Gang” should be sent to Pakistan.
Kanhaiya Kumar is an ex-JNU student as well as the erstwhile president of the JNU students’ union. In 2016, he along with Umar Khalid and others were accused of sedition and arrested by the police.
This case sparked a nationwide debate about the meaning of sedition and nationalism and the right to free speech and dissent.
Fast forward to 2019 and Kanhaiya is contesting elections from Begusarai on a Communist Party of India (Marxist) ticket. In a country where the face of youth politics is a 40-year-old man, what does his entry mean for Indian politics?
On a very surface level, it is a sort of resurgence of alternative politics. At no point in time after the Aam Aadmi Party first came into power has there been such a discussion about alternative politics.
Kanhaiya ’s clout and social media presence do make one wonder if he’ll be able to prove a serious challenger to the BJP and the Congress. As of 2019, he doesn’t remotely have the larger acceptance that Modi and to a certain extent Rahul Gandhi.
Another thing that should be looked at is how Kanhiya influences youth politics. Now, two things.
First, Kanhiya breaks this prevalent narrative that politics is reserved for people of privilege. He’s achieved this level of popularity/notoriety that he has. He’s built his support base very well and has capitalized on the government crackdown on him to pitch himself as an alternative voice.
He says he is an accidental politician, that he wanted to do UPSC but circumstances forced him to pursue this.
Secondly, he is young, an actual youth leader. He is one of few people in a league that contain names like Hardik Patel and Aditya Thackeray. His active participation and dissent creatives this narrative that the youth has a space in politics and that it’s not meant for 70-year-old uncles and his friends.
In fact, his entry might even prompt his haters in the youth to join politics or at least become more politically active which in the end is the goal. To involve the youth in politics and the decision-making process in general.
Lastly, this could be a national resurgence of the left in India. Having been relegated to influence in a few states, Kanhiya could give the CPI(M) and the left the legitimacy it needs in states where Kanhaiya has influence.
Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Kanhaiya is a cunning political operator. Turning the government’s negative PR into positive and making that into a political career.
Will he succeed or will his career fizzle out? Will he prove to be a serious challenger or just another cog in the giant machinery of Indian politics? Only time will tell
Reach the blogger at: @tanmaymay_
Image Source: Google Images
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