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This article was first published 5 years ago  » News » Sai's Take: Will Kanhaiya stun Giriraj Singh?

Sai's Take: Will Kanhaiya stun Giriraj Singh?

By Saisuresh Sivaswamy
Last updated on: April 12, 2019 18:07 IST
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'Kanhaiya Kumar, rising through subaltern rage and aspiration, may not triumph, not yet, but his ability to rise is tribute to democracy's finest hour,' says Saisuresh Sivaswamy.

The 3 km-long march as Kanhaiya Kumar files his nomination from Begusarai, April 9, 2019. Photograph: @kanhaiyakumar/Twitter

IMAGE: The 3 km-long march as Kanhaiya Kumar files his nomination from Begusarai, April 9, 2019. Photograph: @kanhaiyakumar/Twitter

Begusarai is witnessing an interesting battle.

A battle between the voice of change -- make it the voice of radical change -- and the status quo represented by the other mainstream parties in the fray.

Union Minister Giriraj Singh may have been airdropped into the constituency kicking and crying, away from his pet Nawada, but under the Modi-Shah doctrine it is the time for all good soldiers to come to the aid of the party, whether they like it or not.

So he is out there, making a game of it, and given the mood the electorate according to me, may well romp home.

The other mainstream candidate in the fray is Tanveer Hassan of the Rashtriya Janata Dal. Can the Mahagatbandhan he represents be able to ward off the combined might of the BJP and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal-United?

Or, will it be the turn of the dark horse in the fray, Kanhaiya Kumar, who certainly needs no introduction to the news-consuming public and who is in the fray on a Communist Party of India ticket to enter Parliament?

It was good to watch NDTV India's Raveesh Kumar step out of the confines of the studio and hit the campaign trail in Begusarai, towing along with Kanhaiya Kumar as he drove around hovels and shanties to canvass votes.

TV shows are not about the presenter or reporter, but the subject, but even then you couldn't but help notice how comfortable Raveesh Kumar was in this milieu that for most city-bred journalists would be a stomach churner.

Whether it was riding pillion with the motorcycle-borne supporters of the candidate down country roads, chatting up locals in their dialect as one among them, and not talking at them as most of us are wont to, speaking comfortably with the shy and retiring women, this episode put Raveesh back in his element, where he truly belongs.


But what about Kanhaiya Kumar himself?

His motorcade may be one-tenth the size of the next candidate's but still it came as a shock to realise that it was him leaning out of the sun roof and waving at the villagers.

Yes, a car or two is a must to cover the vast distances that our Lok Sabha constituencies span but even then, it would have been far more pleasing to see him alight and mingle with the crowds at every pit stop rather than deliver a speech -- however impassioned it may be -- from the car top.

In fact, use the motorcade only till the village entrance and then on go on foot as one among the people, which is what his USP is.

Even his speech from atop the car failed to enthuse, and lacked the passion and pathos of his Azaadi speech delivered at JNU soon after his release from lockup in March 2016. Granted that no candidate, not even Barack Obama, can come up with a soul-stirrer each and every time, but Kanhaiya covered all the familiar tropes.

This election, Kanhaiya Kumar said, was a fight between 'notetantra' and loktantra (democracy), this ladai was desh ki ladai, a clash of ideologies and not just a clash between parties or contestants.

After extolling the virtues of democracy he finished off his speech with the expected 'Inquilab zindabad!'

Will Kanhaiya Kumar's humble election campaign be able to beat the odds, and the vastly more affluent candidates he is ranged against?

The beauty of democracy is that at the altar of people's power, both the king and pauper are the same, supplicants of people's kindness.

It is a different thing that once elections are over the king will return to his palace while the pauper aspires to replicate him, both leaving the voter where he was. Yet, for that all-too brief a moment, people's power remains supreme.

And Kanhaiya Kumar, rising through subaltern rage and aspiration, is a representative of that power. He may not triumph, not yet, but his ability to rise is tribute to democracy's finest hour.

And that is what keeps the faith of the people going in the otherwise iniquitous system.

Another voice of the dispossessed, though unlike Kanhaiya Kumar he does not come from such a background but only speaks for it, was on two channels one after the other, or was it simultaneously given how our 'live' news telecasts work?

Asaduddin Owaisi of the All India Majlis e Ittehadul Muslimeen was quizzed by Rajat Sharma on India TV and Sunil Awasthi on ABP News.

Now it is true that Owaisi and his party have struggled to expand their footprint from the Muslim pockets of Old Hyderabad and into the rest of the country, though it is not for want of trying.

The English-speaking Owaisi brothers represent a new kind of Muslim leadership, one that is comfortable in its religiosity as well as in its ability to engage with the rest on their own terms and in their own language.

Many accuse them of being vote-cutters in close electoral contests and benefactors of the BJP by taking away 'secular' votes, but the brothers have not let these charges faze them.

'Islam in danger' is the last thing you will expect to hear them shout; it is more likely to be 'Muslims in distress' -- which perhaps explains their inability to grow beyond a certain point among their community.

Sai's Take

Why is the prime minister speaking on a sensitive issue like terrorism at this time, and why is he linking it to religion (referring to 'Hindu terror'), Owaisi wanted to know from Rajat Sharma.

What is he trying to achieve by doing this? Why is he not talking about vikas (development), jobs, economy, the note ban?

When Rajat Sharma asked him why he reacts to 'Hindu terror' jibe when he doesn't condemn Mayawati for appealing to Muslims to not break the 'secular vote' by going with the Congress but to cast their lot with the Mahagatbandhan, Owaisi was emphatic.

'Sir, let me make one thing clear, there never was a Muslim votebank, there isn't and never will be. These things were said to fool us. We are as much a part of Hindustan as anyone else.'

'The truth is, in this country there is only a Hindu vote bank. Only Hindus decide who can come to power, not us. If we decided, tell us how there are so few of us in legislatures, when we are 15 per cent of the population?'

The point about there being no Muslim vote bank, Owaisi repeated in his interview to Awasthi on ABP News as well.

When the anchor asked Owaisi what many have been speculating, 'But what will you do if, tomorrow, after the election results are out your friend K Chandrasekhar Rao joins hands with the BJP, what are your options then?', the AIMIM member of Parliament paused before answering.

'The reality is, KCR will not join Modi, I am sure of this.'

But how can you be so sure?

'Awasthi saab, Modiji has got the Midas touch, didn't you know? Whoever he touches will burn.'

You are saying that, his allies are not, look at Uddhav Thackeray, Nitish Kumar, they are all back with Modi.

'Arre saab, just wait for election results and you will know where each one of them stands. What will the Shiv Sena do, Akalis, Paswan, Nitish, it will become clear then.'

'KCR will be the pivot around whom the political parties will gather.'

Famous last words, or pure bombast? We will know on May 23.

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Saisuresh Sivaswamy /
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