Why is Kanhaiya Kumar's candidature from Delhi instead of Bihar's Begusarai? | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Why is Kanhaiya Kumar's candidature from Delhi instead of Bihar's Begusarai?

Apr 15, 2024 08:56 PM IST

In 2019, he stood for elections from his home district as a Left candidate but lost. This time around, he stands from an ally party but from the Capital

Contrary to expectations and barely five years after making his electoral debut from Bihar’s Begusarai Lok Sabha seat — referred to as the Leningrad of Bihar for being a traditional Communist stronghold — Kanahiya Kumar, who contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as CPI candidate, has shifted his base to North East Delhi seat as a Congress candidate.

**EDS: FILE PHOTO** New Delhi: In this Friday, April 5, 2024 file photo Congress party leader Kanhaiya Kumar reacts during an interview in New Delhi. The Congress has fielded youth leader Kanhaiya Kumar from the North East Delhi seat. (PTI Photo/Gurinder Osan) (PTI04_15_2024_000193B)(PTI) PREMIUM
**EDS: FILE PHOTO** New Delhi: In this Friday, April 5, 2024 file photo Congress party leader Kanhaiya Kumar reacts during an interview in New Delhi. The Congress has fielded youth leader Kanhaiya Kumar from the North East Delhi seat. (PTI Photo/Gurinder Osan) (PTI04_15_2024_000193B)(PTI)

The former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union president joined Congress in 2021 and is currently in charge of the National Students Union of India, the student wing of Congress.

Born in Bihat village in Begusarai, he graduated in geography from the College of Commerce in Patna. He topped the entrance examination of JNU and pursued his PhD in African Studies. While at university, Kumar was a member of the All India Students’ Federation, the student wing of the Communist Party of India.

2016 was a red-letter year for Kumar. In February, he, along with students such as Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, was charged with sedition for allegedly participating in and shouting slogans deemed anti-national at a cultural event meant to question the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. Videos that showed Kumar shouting slogans were shown on national television and later proved to be doctored. A Delhi government probe and a JNU high-level enquiry were instituted. One cleared him, the other penalized him. He was sent to jail, and released on bail. In October of that year, Kumar lost his father, Jai Shankar Singh, a daily wage labourer and farmer. His memoir, From Bihar To Tihar was published the same month.

He received his doctorate from JNU in 2019.

That year, Kumar stood for elections as a CPI candidate from Begusarai. In the 2019 general elections, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Giriraj Singh won the Begusarai seat for the first time with a margin of 422,217 votes. He polled 692,193 votes with a vote share of 56.44%. He defeated Kumar who got 269,976 votes (22.01%). RJD's Tanweer Hassan stood third with 198,233 votes (16.16%).

This time around, when the Mahagathbandhan or Grand Alliance in Bihar started seat-sharing talks, the question on everyone’s mind was whether Kumar would once again cross swords with Giriraj Singh.

The suspense ended last month itself when the seat went to CPI in the seat-sharing arrangement, and for a brief while, there was talk that Kumar might fight from Maharajganj. But Kumar has moved to the National Capital.

Reasons for the shift

Ever since the Congress announced Kumar’s candidature from the North East Delhi seat, the ruling alliance started attacking the Congress for bankruptcy, while the Janata Dal (United) — once again, back with the BJP-National Democratic Alliance after a few years with the Mahagathbandhan— blamed it on former ally Rashtriya Janata Dal.

Kumar allegedly wanted to contest elections from Begusarai itself, but the Congress did not get the seat in the alliance, giving rise to rumours that the RJD does not like Kumar.

“Lalu Prasad has a clear understanding that no one will stand against his son Tejashwi Prasad Yadav in politics. Congress leadership has decided to field Kanhaiya Kumar in Delhi. Without Lalu Prasad's permission, the Congress cannot even smile in Bihar,” said JD(U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar.

Retired professor Nawal Kishore Chowdhary, a social analyst concurred. “Lalu was up against him in Bihar. He did not want any leader to stand parallel to his son. In the past also, they (Kanahiya and Tejashwi) have not shared a dais,” said Chowdhary.

BJP Begusarai candidate Giriraj Singh took a dig at the Congress’s decision. “Congress is a tired party. It is not able to find a candidate...so Kanhaiya Kumar has been given the ticket from Delhi,” said Singh.

The Congress leaders of Bihar however have defended the decision.

“Kanhaiya Kumar is a brand and a very analytical person. He talks with facts. He is a popular face in politics. Delhi is important for us and he has done his initial politics from JNU. He would be more effective there,” Anand Madhab, Congress spokesperson, said.

Congress has a long-term strategy behind giving him a ticket from the North East Delhi seat.

It has fielded Kumar against BJP's Manoj Tiwari in a seat dominated by Purvanchalis, i.e., people belonging from east UP and Bihar.

The strategy

Congress leaders familiar with the matter said that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi wanted Kumar to contest the elections from Delhi, and the option of a North East Delhi seat was given to Kumar. If he succeeds then Congress will get a big Purvanchali face in Delhi. While setting the election tone, Kumar will bring the conversation around to the performance of the Modi government and thus, strengthen the Congress campaign.

The North East Delhi seat has a majority population of Purvanchali who live in illegal colonies and are mostly migrants.

Kumar was very active during Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra and played a crucial role in getting the support of youth. In contrast, Manoj Tiwary of the BJP is the lone MP retained in Delhi. Tiwary, also a Purvanchali, is a two-time MP.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Vijay is chief of bureau, Patna. He has spent 21 years in journalism and covers political beats and public affairs.

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