Former Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Kanhaiya Kumar joined the Congress party in the presence of Rahul Gandhi at the party headquarters in Delhi on September 28.
Independent MLA from Gujarat Jignesh Mevani, however, extended support saying he cannot join the party formally on technical grounds.
Kumar, 34, is a former president of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student’s union. Mevani, 38, is an independent MLA from Vadgam constituency in Gujarat.Kumar resigned from the CPI hours before joining the Congress.
CPI leader Kanhaiya Kumar and Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mewani joins Congress in the presence of Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi pic.twitter.com/7t0tf8lqmp
— ANI (@ANI) September 28, 2021
The joining comes within hours of Navjot Singh Sidhu quitting from the post of party's state President in Punjab.
"I am joining Congress because it's not just a party, it's an idea. It's country's oldest and most democratic party, and I am emphasising on 'democratic'. Not just me, many think that country can't survive without the Congress," Kumar said after the joining.
Congress general secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal, party's Bihar incharge Bhakta Charan Das, working President of Gujarat Congress Hardik Patel and national spokesperson Randeep S Surjewala were present, among other leaders, at the media interaction after the formal joining.
"Kanhaiya Kumar is actually a symbol of fight for freedom of speech in our country. His joining Congress will enthuse entire cadre of the party all over India. Jignesh is also been fighting for the same cause which Congress has been fighting. Jigneshji through his activities and interventions proved that he believes in Congress ideology," KC Venugopal said after the formal joining.
Venugopal said former Congress President Rahul Gandhi had met the young leaders before the media interaction. "We look forward to working with these young leaders, Kumar and Mevani, to defeat the fascist forces ruling this country," he said.
Before the formal joining, the two activist-turned politicians garlanded the statue of Bhagat Singh at the ITO park marking the 114th birth anniversary of the freedom fighter. Rahul Gandhi also attended the garlanding event organised by the Indian Youth Congress.
The entry of the two fiery speakers, from Gujarat and Bihar, is expected to be good optics for the Congress, given that many young leaders such as Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada and Sushmita Dev have quit the party in the past couple of years.
"I cannot join the Congress party because of technical hurdle that I am an independent MLA. But I assure you that I will contest next elections on Congress ticket," Mevani said.
"Congress party is like a big ship, if it's saved, I believe many people's aspirations, Mahatma Gandhi's oneness, Bhagat Singh's courage and BR Ambedkar's idea of equality will be protected too. This is why I have joined the party," he said.
The Congress is likely to give Kumar a role in Bihar state Congress and Mevani, in Gujarat, which will go to polls by the end of 2022.
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Mevani, a Dalit leader, rose to national prominence during the 2016 protests following the flogging incident in which seven Dalit youths were tortured in Una, Gujarat, by members of a cow protection group.
Kumar shot to prominence as a firebrand JNU student union president with his speeches against the Narendra Modi-led BJP government in 2016. He was jailed over "anti-national slogans" raised at an event in 2016 to mark the death anniversary of Parliament attack mastermind Afzal Guru.Mevani won the Vadgam (reserved) assembly constituency in the Banaskantha district of Gujarat in 2017 with the backing of Congress while Kumar contested the 2019 Lok Sabha election from Begusarai on a CPI ticket but lost to the BJP’s Giriraj Singh.