Congress leaning 'Left' to recruit young talent?

Congress leaning 'Left' to recruit young talent?

The Congress has a long list of Left student leaders who joined the party, including former JNUSU President Shakil Ahmed Khan

Congress Party leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Credit: PTI File Photo

Speculation is rife in the Congress over the induction of CPI leader and former JNU President Kanhaiya Kumar into the party. Another leader who is expected to join is Jignesh Mevani, MLA in Gujarat, as Congress leaders indicate that this is not the first time that Left leaders will be joining the party.

The Congress is buoyed by these young leaders after the exit of some people who were perceived to be close to former Congress President Rahul Gandhi, starting with Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada who joined the BJP. The latest is Sushmita Dev who joined the TMC and was women wing President of the party. She has now been nominated to the Upper House of Parliament.

The Congress has a long list of Left student leaders who joined the party, including former JNUSU President Shakil Ahmed Khan who was in the SFI and joined the party in 1998. He is now a second time Congress MLA from Bihar and AICC secretary. Shakil Ahmed Khan said, "when I joined Congress it was to fight communalism as the BJP government was in power and only the Congress could fight the BJP at the national level and the party has a legacy and commitment towards secularism." He hailed Rahul Gandhi for taking on the BJP despite all the odds.

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Before him late DP Tripathi was in the Congress and was a close aide of Rajiv Gandhi though he later left for the NCP. B L Bairwa was another leader who joined from the JNUSU left wing student organisation.

Syed Naseer Hussain who is a MP in the Upper House was JNUSU President in 1999-2000. Most recently Sandeep Singh joined the Congress and is working closely with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra while Mohit Pandey is also working in Uttar Pradesh and is likely to contest the UP assembly polls. Both Singh and Pandey have been President of Student Unions from left wing student organisations but switched to the Congress for a better political future.

Congress leaders said on condition of anonymity that the party too has talent and they should be promoted rather than looking to other parties. A leader cited the examples of Anand Sharma, Manish Tewari, Randeep Surjewala, KC Venugopal, Ramesh Chennithala and Ajay Maken who had come from student politics to the Congress. Many present and former Chief Ministers are from the same background but are being ignored in the party, he said.

Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi while addressing the party's social media volunteers virtually on July 16 said that the party only needs courageous people, and not those who are afraid of the BJP.

Also Read | Rift widens between Congress and Left in West Bengal

"Bahut sare log Congress ke bahar hai jo dar nahi rahein hain, unko andar lao. Jo hamare yahan dar rahein hain, unko bahar nikalo (There are many outside the party who are not scared. Bring them into the Congress. Remove those from the party who are scared)," he had said.

Sources said that talks with Kanhaiya Kumar and Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani from Gujarat are in the final stages but nothing has been finalised yet. The sources said the Congress wants to rope in these two leaders ahead of the assembly polls and particularly Mevani before the Gujarat polls for their oratory and crowd pulling capabilities. Mevani is an independent MLA in Gujarat and had won the election with Congress support.

While the Congress is in search of talent in the JNU, its principal rival BJP has at least two senior ministers in the Union Government from the same campus -- Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.

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