Tejasvi Surya’s win, Kanhaiya Kumar’s defeat in 2019 Lok Sabha polls reflect the changing narrative of ‘New India’

Tejasvi Surya projected himself as flag-bearer of ‘New India’ that is confident, assertive and which believes that issues like poverty, economic inequality and social divide will not be resolved by rhetoric but by strengthening the concept of nation-state and market economy.

Shishir Tripathi May 23, 2019 19:38:58 IST
Tejasvi Surya’s win, Kanhaiya Kumar’s defeat in 2019 Lok Sabha polls reflect the changing narrative of ‘New India’
  • There existed a common thread between the two young leaders in the sense that both were ‘self-made’, did not belong to political families

  • Kumar’s entire political campaign rested on attacking the Modi government. The symbols and metaphors he used were all crafted to suit this narrative

  • On the other hand Surya chose a constituency that matched his profile: urban, preferred by white-collar job holders and representative of post-liberalization India

Two young men, not part of any political dynasty, contested the Lok Sabha elections. Kanhaiya Kumar, former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) president who shot to ‘fame’ following his arrest in February 2016 for allegedly raising anti-national slogans at JNU campus was fielded by the CPI. At the other end of the ideological and political spectrum is Tejasvi Surya, a young lawyer from Bangalore South constituency fielded by the BJP.

Tejasvi Suryas win Kanhaiya Kumars defeat in 2019 Lok Sabha polls reflect the changing narrative of New India

File image of Tejasvi Surya. Twitter@Tejasvi_Surya

Kumar, who was a member of All India Students Federation (AISF), posed himself as a firebrand leader and gave dozens of interviews where he attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He quickly became the poster boy for a section of media and Left-liberal intelligentsia. His contesting from Begusarai, his hometown in Bihar, received nationwide attention including support from the Bollywood. Kumar was projected as the David who could strike a symbolic blow to the Goliath BJP government by defeating senior BJP leader Giriraj Singh.

From Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi to Swara Bhasker and Prakash Raj, youth leaders from Gujarat Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mevani, not to forget JNUSU vice president Shehla Rashid who led the protest movement after Kanhaiya’s arrest in 2016, Kumar had no dearth of support.

Surya, 28, a young lawyer has oratorical skill but his campaign did not grab eyeballs the way Kumar’s did. There existed a common thread between the two young leaders though in the sense that both were ‘self-made’, did not belong to political families and have risen in the political ladder through hard work.

Tejasvi Suryas win Kanhaiya Kumars defeat in 2019 Lok Sabha polls reflect the changing narrative of New India

File image of Kanhaiya Kumar. PTI

But the similarity end here and differences come to the fore. The first is the grammar of their political trajectory. Kumar’s was punctuated with the narrative that finds resonance in the JNU campus but fades away no sooner it reaches to the JNU’s nearest locality of Jia Srai where thousands of students slog day and night for civil service exam. This narrative romanticized ‘communism’ and attributed all ills of the society to ‘capitalism’ and ‘bourgeoisie state’. This tired narrative has been long rejected by the people – going by Left’s increasing redundancy in electoral politics – but still finds resonance among a section of academics and ‘ivory tower intellectuals’.

Surya, however, projected himself as flag-bearer of ‘New India’ that is confident, assertive and which believes that issues like poverty, economic inequality and social divide will not be resolved by rhetoric but by strengthening the concept of nation-state and market economy.

Kumar chose Begusarai in Bihar which has been a communist stronghold for decades since Independence. Kumar’s entire political campaign rested on attacking the Modi government. The symbols and metaphors he used were all crafted to suit this narrative. On the other hand Surya chose a constituency that matched his profile: urban, preferred by white-collar job holders and representative of post-liberalization India.

On Thursday when early trends started coming in from Bangalore South and Begusarai, it became clear that Indian youth has rejected the narrative and ‘cause’ that Kumar claims to espouse. While Surya won Bangalore south seat by 3,29,097 votes becoming the youngest parliamentarian, Kumar lost the elections by 3,94,000 votes. India has rejected once again the deracinated Leftist narrative.

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