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Kanhaiya for-PM call on campus

JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar today got a bolt from the blue, or rather the Red, after a far-Left union comrade called for him be the next Prime Minister at a public event here today. Speaking at the Idea of India Conclave, JNUSU vice president Shehla Rashid of the CPIML-Liberation backed AISA asked the audience if it was possible for them to see Kanhaiya as PM.

By Pheroze L. Vincent
  • Published 25.05.16
  •  
Kanhaiya Kumar

New Delhi, May 24: JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar today got a bolt from the blue, or rather the Red, after a far-Left union comrade called for him be the next Prime Minister at a public event here today. Speaking at the Idea of India Conclave, JNUSU vice president Shehla Rashid of the CPIML-Liberation backed AISA asked the audience if it was possible for them to see Kanhaiya as PM.

She said: "We have become the prime opposition. I think that because we have been catapulted into the prime opposition, we might as well take that job very seriously and be the opposition and go for the mission 2019 and make sure this government doesn't come back. And make sure that whichever government comes - be it ours or someone else's - it should engage with the questions we or anyone else asks. Can we see such a big dream like Kanhaiya becoming the PM in 2019."

The 300-strong crowd - with more grey heads than black - at the India International Centre in Lutyens Delhi, where the conclave was held, responded with a loud applause. She added: "Whether Kanhaiya becomes the Prime Minister or someone else does, we have to foreground these questions. Those who come to power must raise these questions. The motive of JNU is to raise questions which are out of bonds for all. You can't speak on AFSPA, you can't speak on Afzal Guru. After a while you won't be allowed to speak on starvation or libraries - which will be made anti-national. This will happen and is in fact already happening."

She told The Telegraph later she wanted to make the point that there were alternatives available. She explained: "I said it for widening our imagination beyond the binary of (Narendra) Modi and Rahul (Gandhi). When we talk about political alternatives, what we are really talking about is an alternative set of policies be it land reforms and questions of education, employment, caste and gender justice. And yes, why not Kanhaiya?"

The last person Kanhaiya could expect such a pitch from is a comrade from the CPIML, which often suspects his calls for unity against the BJP as revisionist attempts to ally with the Congress.

Student Umar Khalid, facing sedition charges along with Kanhaiya for a commemoration of Guru's execution, also spoke. He said: "I want to appeal, Kanhaiya please don't contest for Prime Minister in 2019. We are from the agitation, we will remain in the agitation."

However, Umar added: "When Kanhaiya got bail, that day Arun Jaitley said that the government has won the ideological war against the students of JNU. I agree that yes there is an ideological war. I disagree that you have won. If it was an ideological war then why, like a school bully, did you bring the police in. You should fight it ideologically. You know you can't win that's why you bring in the police and frame us in false cases, send thugs."

Umar had a word of praise for Calcutta's saffron brigade: "I was in Calcutta recently where the RSS also came. What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow. Even the RSS there is a step ahead. In north India they say, 'Go back to Pakistan'. In Calcutta they said, 'JNU hyena go back to China'. At least, they have finally accepted that I am not a Muslim but a Communist, they gave me that much political agency."

When Kanhaiya spoke, he said: "I disagree with Umar on many things, but I definitely agree with him that I shouldn't stand for PM in 2019. Because now completing my PhD is more of a political responsibility than an academic responsibility, given the way the word 'subsidy' has been thrown at us like an accusation."

The deadline to submit his PhD thesis on Social Transformation in Post-Apartheid South Africa is in 2018.

Despite the Bengal debacle, he maintained his call for unity. "Our puritanism traps us (communists)," he said.

On fighting polls, the JNUSU president said: "We are not looking for an alternative within politics but we're talking about alternative politics. The first alternative is to replace the first past the post system with proportional representation. Becoming the PM is not the solution. Politicisation of people is more important and possible with the questions of education and employment."

When this paper asked Kanhaiya why he was playing coy on polls, he said: "Patience, patience please. As you can see our solidarity with the ML is stronger than ever. What I will be doing, besides my PhD, is to travel and talk to people wherever people want to listen."