Clutching at Kanhaiyahttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/clutching-at-kanhaiya/

Clutching at Kanhaiya

That he is projected as a saviour of the Left and Congress shows the deep morass they have sunk into.

JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar . Express photo by Ravi Kanojia.
JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar. (Express photo by Ravi Kanojia)

Lord Krishna, lovingly known as Kanhaiya, had assured his devotees in the Bhagavad Gita that whenever dharma declines and adharma spreads in the world, he will take an avataar in order to strengthen the forces of dharma.

Communists may not believe in Lord Krishna. But the left parties and their intellectual supporters are treating JNU’s Kanhaiya as their saviour incarnate at a time when the credibility of their chosen dharma — Marxism and class war — has suffered an irreversible decline. It is as though they found in him Lenin, Mao, Che Guevara and Bhagat Singh, all rolled into one, to win the war against Narendra Modi. And what are his credentials for being catapulted to this superhero status? That he won the JNU students’ union election with 1,000 votes out of 7,000, and delivered a thundering speech against the Sangh Parivar soon after his release from Tihar.

While Kanhaiya’s February 9 speech was a masterly performance, within no time, he exposed himself to be a strawman, catapulted to fame by the Modi government’s ham-handed intervention in l’affaire JNU. In TV interviews, he denied involvement with the unauthorised gathering where Maoists and Kashmiri secessionists shouted slogans threatening to wage war till India is cut up into pieces. Kanhaiya’s mischief was exposed by the JNU administration, which confirmed that when permission for the meeting by the Maoist outfit DSU was cancelled, he insisted that it be granted again. A Bhagat Singh wouldn’t have lied.

When questioned about his stand on the slogans, Kanhaiya slimily evaded the issue to deliver a pious sermon on “azadi” from hunger, poverty discrimination, Manuvad and Sanghis. But JNU’s high-level inquiry found enough evidence of wrongdoing to recommend disciplinary action against Kanhaiya and four others. Last year, in a revealing incident, JNU had fined this women’s-rights crusader Rs 3,000 for abusing and threatening a female student who reprimanded him for urinating in public.

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The truth is that the CPI, whose student wing Kanhaiya represents, adopted the same position in the 1940s, calling for India’s Balkanisation under the influence of the Stalinist Soviet Union. It also lent support to the creation of Pakistan. That is exactly what the DSU meeting facilitated by Kanhaiya echoed.

Kanhaiya had no hesitation in greeting Rahul Gandhi as a valuable ally in his fight for “freedom” from the above-mentioned curses. He is astute enough to know that had he attacked the Congress and the communist parties in the same vein as he did Modi and Sanghis, he wouldn’t be a media star today.

Let’s examine the worth of Kanhaiya’s charges against the BJP: One, that Indian democracy and constitutional rights are under dire threat since the party assumed power in Delhi. Can any sane person accept that citizens in BJP-ruled states like MP, Rajasthan and Gujarat are less free than citizens of Congress- or opposition-ruled states, like, say, West Bengal under communist or TMC rule? Two, that farmers, downtrodden castes and women need freedom from oppression by Sanghis. Are we supposed to become oblivious to the fact that the Congress has ruled India for over 60 years? Have farmers and Dalits prospered under Congress or communist rule? Do women enjoy total freedom and equality under non-BJP governments? Are Dalits worse off in BJP-ruled Gujarat or MP than in Lalu-Nitish-ruled Bihar? Three, that Sanghis are a divisive force. Isn’t the ideology of “class war” intrinsically divisive? Is society more strife-ridden in BJP-ruled states or under communist rule, which pitched workers against industrialists till industries were forced to shut down? They pitched farm labourers against small peasants through rabid trade union activity, as in Kerala, till farmers started abandoning agriculture. Have Congress-ruled states not witnessed countless communal and caste riots? Four, that the privatisation of education assaults democracy. Did this process start with the BJP’s rise to power? Have state-run colleges and universities under 60 years of Congress rule, or 30 years of communist rule in Bengal, fulfilled the educational aspirations of the rural poor, Dalits, women, tribals?

Kanhaiya mocks the BJP for securing only a 31 per cent vote share and warns the party not to presume to speak on behalf of the entire nation. However, Kanhaiya arrogates to himself the right to speak on behalf of India’s 1.3 billion people even though his parent body, the CPI, secured a mere 0.78 per cent of the national vote.

The Sangh Parivar’s politics and the Modi government’s performance have many serious flaws. However, Kanhaiya’s pathological hostility is purely ideological rather than a product of serious engagement with issues or keen observation of facts expected of a PhD scholar. Clearly his mentors at JNU have turned Kanhaiya into a well-indoctrinated, robotic political activist, not a serious scholar or even an astute political observer. That the fledgling student leader is projected as a saviour for the almost-dead left movement and the shrivelling Congress shows the deep morass they have sunk into. This desperation comes from the fact that the ideological fulcrum of the left, that is, the working class, has abandoned the communist parties for good because their prescriptions only bring strife and stalemates, not economic prosperity. Similarly, the scam-ridden, dynasty-dominated politics of the Congress, with its reliance on communal polarisation, has shrunk its appeal.

Having lost their connect with their traditional support groups, the Congress and the communists are clutching at the irreconcilable combination of Marx, Ambedkar and Jinnah to help them secure a vote bank among SCs and Muslims. Positioning a half-baked student activist mouthing clichéd socialist rhetoric as a challenger to Modi and the Sangh Parivar amounts to ballooning in cloud cuckoo land. If fiery speeches are all it took to win elections, Modi wouldn’t have suffered humiliating defeats in Delhi and Bihar.