Bihat (Begusarai/Bihar): It is like a “mini India” outside Kanhaiya Kumar’s old khaprail (temporary roofed) house as some people stand, engaged in a discussion while others are busy with their mobile phones and some others sit under trees to escape the scorching sun. Most of these people have come from different states and cities across the country with the same purpose – help in the campaign for Kanhaiya Kumar, former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union president, who is Communist Party of India (CPI) candidate from the Begusarai Lok Sabha seat..
Till they reached Kanhaiya’s house in Masnadpur Tola of Bihat village near Barauni oil refinery, most of these people were not known to each other. Now, all these young, middle-aged as well as elderly men and women have become friends.
“Early in the morning before going for campaign and late at night after returning, these people spend their time in the open space around Kanhaiya’s house, where plastic chairs and cots are spread out,” said Dhananjay Kumar, a young man considered close to Kanhaiya who is the main campaign coordinator.
What is unique is that these people are from all walks of life -- students, activists, businessmen, theatre personalities, environmentalists, academicians belonging to the Left and liberal ideologies, who different languages, follow different religions and represent different cultures. They are is separate teams for door-to-door campaign, cultural groups that stage street plays, holding street corner meetings in villages and semi-urban pockets, handling social media etc.
One could also spot some foreign nationals, including three from France, who said they were in Begusarai to “closely watch the colourful campaign” of Kanhaiya. Over a dozen international mediapersons have visited this place so far, which is rare, not to talk about reporters from Indian TV channels, newspapers and news websites.
Unlike other candidates in Begusarai and across Bihar’s 40 Lok Sabha seats, Kanhaiya has attracted people who have come on their own, spending their own money, except a few who stay in adjoining houses that belong to Kanhaiya’s relatives and have vacated these to accommodate Kanhaiya’s campaigners. Food arrangements for all are made in a makeshift kitchen behind Kanhaiya’s house, run by his family, including his mother.
Jaber Jung Singh, a Sikh in traditional religious attire from Bhatinda in Punjab, said: “I have come here on my own. I am not CPI cadre. I have nothing to do with any party. But I am here to help whatever little I can to ensure Kanhaiya’s victory”.
Pictures of a campaigner Jung Singh - Begusarai.Photo Credit Mohd Imran Khan
Singh told NewsClick that like him, hundreds of people from across the country had come to Begusarai with the sole purpose of helping Kanhaiya. “He is like light in the darkness. He has spark like the legendary Bhagat Singh”, he said.
Sudip Dalvi, an environmental activist from Goa, said he has been meeting people in villages and urban pockets seeking support for Kanhaiya.”I have come here after traveling over 1,000 km to mobilise support for Kanhaiya.I have been informing people how the environment of Goa and the country was badly compromised during last five years under PM Narendra Modi,” he told NewsClick.
Mirza Lukman, a resident of Jagatsinghpur in Odisha, said he had taken leave to join Kanhaiya’s campaign. “I am visiting villages to convince people to support him as he is the voice of the marginalised, weaker sections, minorities and the poorest of the poor”, he said.
Jayant Gogoi from Assam, George Manik from Kerala, Salmat Ali and Krishna Ram from Telangana, Nageshwar Reddy from Andhra Pradesh, Shantanu Banerjee from West Bengal and Anand Singh from Madhya Pradesh, are some other faces who afe camping in Begusarai. “We are trying to reach out to as many people as possible with a single message to support and vote Kanhaiya”, Gogoi said.
Anish Ankur, a poll-watcher, said Kanhaiya is an emerging youth leader, who has directly challenged, questioned and countered Modi, turning Begusarai into ‘kumbh’ of Left-liberal and democratic people from across the country. ”People from Eastern to western to southern to northern India are camping in Begusarai to send a message against politics of hate, he said.
Sandeep Gupta ,a student of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, Zain Mohd Suleman,a P.hD student from Aligarh Muslim University, Arif Siddiqui, a student from Allahabad University, Mahesh Kumar from Delhi University and a group of students from JNU are all working hard amid the unbearable heat. "I am attached to a cultural team to stage street plays, sing songs to seek support for Kanhaiya", Gupta told NewsClick.
Dilip Tayade , a CPI cadre from Nagpur, said: “Kanhaiya is like a star, the future of the country. By helping him, we are contributing to strengthening democracy.”
Rajendra Kumar Tayagi, a retired teacher from an engineering college and author of competitive books, has been accompanying Kanhaiya on the campaign for the past seven days. Tyagi, in his early 60s, is from Delhi. Similarly, M A Alam , a retired government engineer from Patna, has also come to help Kanhaiya’s campaign.
Not only common men and women, celebrities, too, have landed in Begusarai to support the CPI candidate. Among these are famous poet-lyricist Javed Akhtar, actors Shabana Azmi, Swara Bhaskar, actor-turned-activist Prakash Raj, Gujarat’s Dalit activist-turned-MLA Jignesh Mewani, JNU student-turned-activist Shehla Rashid, social activist Shabnam Hashmi, scientist Gauhar Raza, Swaraj Party chief Yogendra Yadav,s enior Nationalist Congress Party leader D P Tripathi, CPI secretary Sudhakar Reddy and CPI-M General secretary Sitaram Yechury.
One thing is certain, Kanhaiya’s presence in the fray has made Begusarai a hot seat, where he is facing old horses like Union Minister and Bharatya Janata Party’s (BJP) candidate Giriraj Singh. "My fight is to defeat communal and fascist forces in the country. I am confident and sure that people of Begusarai will support and vote me" he said.
Singh is a controversial leader, known for his vocal championship of Hindutva politics.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal-led Mahagathbandhan has not supported Kanhaiya, and has fielded Tanweer Hassan, who has hardy made his presence felt so far.
Begusarai will go to polls on April 29 in the fourth of seven phases polls.