Buzz over Congress revamp with entry of Kanhaiya Kumar, Jignesh Mevani

Mr. Kumar and Mr. Mevani are likely to join the party on September 28.

The possibility of prominent political activists like Kanhaiya Kumar and Jignesh Mevani joining the Congress on September 28 and the buzz around election strategist Prashant Kishor indicate that the grand old party may be trying to build a new team ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls through lateral entry.

Coinciding with the birth anniversary of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Mr. Mevani and Mr. Kumar are likely to be inducted in the presence of former party chief Rahul Gandhi.

It is, however, not clear if the new entrants would be given a national role or would be asked to focus on their respective States.

While Mr. Kumar, one of the youngest members from Bihar in the Communist Party of India’s (CPI) national executive, met Mr. Gandhi earlier this month, Dalit activist and independent lawmaker from Gujarat, Mr. Mevani, has been in touch with the leadership.

About Mr Kishor’s entry into the Congress, there is no clear indication about the timeline even though the issue has been debated among the members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) as well as G-23, the group of 23 letter writers who sought internal reforms.

The Congress is yet to officially comment on the speculation but remarks made by Mr. Gandhi on July 16 reflect the top leadership’s thinking.

“There are many people who are not scared [of BJP-RSS], but are outside the Congress. All these people are ours. Bring them in, and those scared within our party should be shunted out. They can go to RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] people, let them enjoy. We do not want them, they are not needed. We want fearless people,” Mr. Gandhi told a meeting of social media volunteers.

Besides Mr Gandhi’s hope of adding “fearless” warriors, new faces could give the Congress a much needed relief in terms of perception that it is only witnessing desertions.

In the past one and half years, young leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada, and Sushmita Dev have quit, adding to the sense of drift that has prevailed since May 2019 after the Congress lost two successive Lok Sabha polls.

“When you allow lateral entry, it certainly creates a media frenzy but it has a demoralising effect on the workers who had aspirations to grow in the party,” Professor Shri Prakash Singh of Department of Political Science, Delhi University.

Pointing out the problems faced by the Congress in Punjab after making Navjot Singh Sidhu the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief, Prof Singh said, “There is also the question of difference in political culture of parties and senior members don’t easily accept their leadership.”

In recent times, however, the Congress seems to be “trying out” the template of “rewarding” leaders who have come from other parties: be it Nana Patole in Maharashtra, Revanth Reddy in Telangana or Mr. Sidhu in Punjab.

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