Former JNU students’ union president and CPI candidateKanhaiya Kumar is pitted against BJP leader and Union Minister Giriraj Singh in Begusarai, known as the ‘Leningrad of Bihar’ for the sizeable number of communist party supporters across caste lines. Both Mr. Kumar and Mr. Singh are from the dominant upper caste Bhumihar community but their politics represent two poles. Talking over several cups of tea outside his concrete-and-thatched single-storied house at Bihat-Maslanpur village, Mr. Kumar portrayed the contest as one between truth and falsehood and a battle to protect the Constitution and democratic institutions.Excerpts:
Whom do you consider as your contender? BJP candidate Giriraj Singh or grand alliance (RJD) candidate Tanveer Hassan?
I do not consider either of them as my contender. My fight is not against any individual but an ideology: against that ideology which talks about politics of polarisation, divisiveness, attacking constitution and slamming democratic institutions. It’s a contest between haq aur loot ; saach aur jhoot (rights and loot; truth and lies).
How do you see BJP’s development, patriotism, Pulwama and Balakot air strike issues in the campaign?
We all know about BJP’s propaganda politics. Divisive politics. If they were so sure about all these things to reap electoral dividend, then why did they go for alliances with the Shiv Sena and the JD (U) on these parties’ terms? Patriotism and our soldiers’ bravery should not come into politics. It is always there for every Indian to salute but politicising it, I think, must be condemned. The BJP’s slander campaign of “anti-national” and “fake news” cannot be approved by any right thinking Indian. By raising Pulwama terror strike and Balakot air strike they have hatched a conspiracy to hide their failures… the promises they made during the last election to the people of the country. They want to claim the success of our brave soldiers as their own.
But why should the people of Begusarai vote for you?
Because I’m the son of the soil and, unlike the BJP candidate, I’m not being imported. You can well understand why Giriraj Singh was reluctant to contest from Begusarai for over a week… he must be feeling threatened. People of Begusarai would vote for me for their voice to be heard in Delhi against all the hate politics, politics of intimidation, oppression; for participatory democracy and social cohesion, inclusiveness.
Why did the mahagathbandhan refuse to field you as candidate, despite a grand welcome accorded to you, by both RJD chief Lalu Prasad and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, earlier?
I’ve no idea at all. But, I’ve no grudges against anyone. I’m here to contest the election with an open mind and clear agenda. The people of Begusarai are politically so mature that they know and understand everything. They’re ready to break all myths in this election: about caste, chemistry, calculations and propaganda. Begusarai has never been a BJP stronghold… only in 2014, the BJP candidate had won the seat. But, it’s been a traditional stronghold of communists, Left ideologies. And, despite its Left ideology there has never been a caste massacre here as was earlier happening in districts of central Bihar. Why? Because, people here are well aware and politically educated… it’s not that only the lower caste people are Left supporters in Begusarai, but most of them come from upper caste Bhumihar community.
Do you think coming from the Bhumihar community will help you in the election?
Not really, why to single out the Bhumihar caste only. I’m getting support from everyone, every caste and community. It’s my constituency, they all are my people, whether Muslims or Hindus. But, how can I discard this social fact, that I’m born in a Bhumihar family?
How different is it from contesting the JNU students’ union election?
JNU is beyond an academic institution. It gives you space to learn freely from social movements, consciousness and even from your own life. It was there that my activism flourished and it changed my life’s ambition. When I was contesting for students’ union president I had no idea that I would get such an overwhelming response and win the poll. Contesting Lok Sabha poll also is not very different from it... I am meeting people here every day and hope to get that “overwhelming” response from them to win this poll as well.
Were you to win, what would be your priorities?
I would keep raising my voice against politics of hatred and intimidation; to take politics out of the pockets of the rich and powerful and give it to those common people who pay taxes so that the governments run. People should be the master... we’ll speak for the state of public equality, education, healthcare and infrastructure. We’ll vouch for alternative politics to be accountable and transparent.
How much money have you collected through crowdfunding?
In three days the initiative had collected over ₹30 lakh but suddenly a cyberattack took place and the website stopped opening… we’re working to reopen it soon and are hopeful it will be rectified in the next one or two days. The target is to collect ₹70 lakh as per guidelines given by the Election Commission.