A new generation of young leaders is keen to take a political plunge in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Former president of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union Kanhaiya Kumar, student activist Shehla Rashid Shora, Patidar leader Hardik Patel, and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani are gearing up to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the next year’s general election. These leaders have often expressed their displeasure over the functioning of the BJP government. They want a change and are willing to transform the country and make a difference.
CPI (M) leader Dr. Ashok Dhawale said, “These activists are taking a positive step. If anybody is raising his or her voice against the Modi government, then it must be appreciated. If Hardik Patel has gone on indefinite fast, then it is a positive aspect. This fight should not become individualistic and should be a mass-based agitation.”
“All secular forces should come together against the autocratic Modi government. All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) has organised women’s rally in Delhi on September 4-5; we are organising Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Rally against the Modi government,” he added.
Kanhaiya Kumar will contest the Lok Sabha polls from Begusarai constituency in Bihar. Kanhaiya who hails from Bihat village under Barauni block in Begusarai district will contest polls on a ticket issued by Communist Party of India (CPI). According to sources, an initial round of discussions pertaining to this matter had taken place recently. The CPI leaders didn’t deny the reports and stated, “Kanhaiya Kumar is the most capable leader to contest polls from Begusarai constituency. Even our central leaders are keen on fielding him as a candidate but officially we can only declare his name after receiving final approval from other parties on this issue.”
Congress spokesperson Rohan Gupta said, “These activists are fighting for specific causes, hence, they are getting support. When Jignesh Mewani had contested elections Congress had supported him. If anybody is fighting for a cause then we need to think on it as a broader perspective. The demands of these activists differ, but the government turns a blind eye towards them. Congress party is fighting for the welfare of common people whose voice is suppressed by this government. Right now we cannot say that these activists will transform into good leaders.”
Shehla Rashid too has expressed her willingness to contest the next year’s Lok Sabha polls. Both Kanhaiya and Shehla have been critical of the NDA governments’ policies. Both these leaders are working towards forming a larger united front comprising social and political groups to challenge the BJP in general elections. Shehla who was a member of the CPI-ML-affiliated All India students union stated that she was not averse to contesting elections and had held the elected office before. She is yet to choose a political party or constituency to contest the election.
BJP spokesperson Shivray Kulkarni stated, “The Opposition should have a firm stand against the ruling government’s policies. However, due to weak and immature Opposition, these activists are getting unwarranted publicity and importance. Allegations made by Kanhaiya Kumar and other activists against the government are baseless and they don’t possess proof to back their claim. We need to see the background of Kanhaiya Kumar and he has used various tricks to gain publicity. The Separatists, Naxalists, and leftists are supporting activists like Kanhaiya Kumar.”
Patidar leader Hardik Patel, who had played a vital role to unsettle BJP’s political dominance in Gujarat during the 2017 assembly polls, too, is likely contest the Lok Sabha polls. Patel who had organised several rallies in Gujarat to spearhead the cause of Patidar reservation has already become a popular leader in the state. Patel’s rise as a mass leader has already created insecurity for BJP as the party has been trying to weaken him. He was arrested, sedition charges were filed against him, his group was divided but he never lost hope. Patil has worked hard to strengthen the base of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) prior to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The organisation is planning to appoint a dedicated team of volunteers at tehsil, district and state level for strengthening its social media team. Jignesh Mevani had already made an impact by winning the Vadgam seat in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district to defeat BJP’s nominee Vijay Chakravarti by 19,696 votes. Mevani, who has been critical of the ruling BJP in the state, shot to fame after seven Dalit youths were flogged allegedly by self-styled cow vigilantes at Una in 2016.
Shiv Sena spokesperson Dr. Manisha Kayande admitted that these activists had created an impact on the outcome of Gujarat assembly polls. She said, “However, the 2019 Lok Sabha election will be a nationwide canvas. I don’t know how much support they can garner to affect the outcome of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. It is too early to comment on this aspect. They had garnered the support of the masses to challenge the BJP government in Gujarat. These activists can affect the outcome of polls in some constituencies but only time will tell whether they can pose a challenge to a large outfit like BJP.”
When people had voted for BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, they had huge expectations from the party. However, four years have already passed and the party has failed to fulfil the promises made by it. Unemployment is rising, farmers are committing suicide due to rising debt, Dalits are being targeted, and minorities are feeling insecure under the Modi government’s reign. The young leaders are trying to highlight these failures of the government to connect with the masses.
CPI (M) leader Ajit Abhyankar said, “They had definitely made an impact on the outcome of the Gujarat Assembly polls and they will again make a mark on the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. But, right now, it would be an overestimated statement to talk about them as the future leaders.”