As Congress veers left with entry of Kanhaiya Kumar, insiders urge center to correct course
Former JNU student union president and CPI leader Kanhaiya Kumar is the latest in a long line of left-wing leaders to join Congress or form a strong association with the party.
In fact, two-time Bihar MP Shakeel Ahmed and Rajya Sabha’s Congress whip Naseer Hussain are JNU alumni and have been associated with leftist politics during their stay. Among the most recent examples, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s aide, Sandeep Singh, and the likely UP election candidate, Mohit Dubey, were also part of the leftist parties in the JNU.
Kanhaiya Kumar will join his academic colleagues in Congress on Tuesday, along with Independent MP Vadgam and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani.
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The latest additions have left political observers questioning whether Congress is abandoning its decades-old centrist stance and leaning to the left. The party has at times shown a left leaning in the past, especially during Indira Gandhi’s tenure as Prime Minister. Indira’s penchant for the Soviet Union model is said to have slowed India’s march towards liberalization.
In fact, it was Indira Gandhi’s leftist tendencies that helped her create a split in Congress and strengthen her grip on the new Congress. Slogans like ‘garibi hat‘helped her revive her fortune and that of the party in the 1971 elections. From her second term in office, the pitfalls of following a left line in her economic policy appeared to her and she embarked on the path of modernization, which his son and future Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi firmly believed in.
Indira’s successors in Congress – Rajiv Gandhi, PV Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh, have never been admirers of the left. They believed that any leaning to the left would harm the country, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the time had come to take the centrist path.
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It came as a surprise to many when Sonia Gandhi flaunted some of her mother-in-law’s inclination to the left and filled the National Advisory Council (NAC) with those who claim left ideology like Aruna Ali. and Jean Dietrich. The NAC framed guidelines that were often imposed on Manmohan Singh’s government, such as the farm loan waiver, food bill, and NREGA.
This ideological struggle between the party and the government has led to difficult times. Sources say Manmohan Singh was not very comfortable with the food bill because he feared it could become a drain on the economy if there was a shortage of funds.
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But Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi take back their mother’s trail. Sandeep Singh, who was once associated with the student wing of CPI (ML), is Priyanka’s political secretary. In 2005, he was among those who waved black flags at Manmohan Singh about his government’s policies. He apologized for the same when he left the CPI-backed Indian Student Association (ML) and joined Congress.
Rahul Gandhi is also known to take advice from CPM leader Sitaram Yechury and DU professor Apoorvanand. Rahul’s relatives say his appreciation of these leaders stems from his belief that leftist ideology is the only one that can link his party to the oppressed. This would help him project the narrative that while Congress is with the aam aadmi, the BJP is a “costume-boot ki party”.
“Kanhaiya Kumar can no longer be associated with the left of JNU. He is an aggressive Hindi-speaking politician who will help us, ”said a senior congressional official close to Rahul Gandhi.
But Kanhaiya Kumar’s entry into the party has already sparked controversy, with some fearing that his baggage of controversies in the JNU could bring the party down. The first to speak is Manish Tewari who tweeted without naming Kanhaiya Kumar. “As speculation abounds about some Communist leaders joining @INCIndia, it may be instructive to review a 1973 book ‘Communists in Congress’ Kumarmanglam Thesis. The more things change, the more maybe they stay the same (sic), ”he said.
While speculation abounds on the adhesion of certain communist leaders @INCIndia it may be instructive to revisit a 1973 book “Communists in Congress” Kumarmanglam Thesis. The more things change, the more they may stay the same. I am rereading it todayhttps://t.co/iMSK8RqEiA– Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) September 28, 2021
Many in Kerala Congress are also uncomfortable with the induction of leftist leaders. “We have our own people. We have our own ideology. When these leftist leaders join us, they don’t get rid of their ideologies. They just bring it in and add it to ours. It makes us seem more and more leftist, ”a state congressional official told News18.
With the BJP and other political parties pushing for liberalization and centrist thinking, it remains to be seen whether the tilt to the left will pay off for Congress.
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