Former student leader Kanhaiya Kumar today joined the Congress party formally, alongwith Jignesh Mevani, who extended his support to the party, since he couldn't join due to technical reasons.
At the press conference soon after his joining, Kanhaiya Kumar said, "I am joining the Congress because it's not just a party, it's an idea. It's the country's oldest and most democratic party. Not just me, but many think the country can't survive without Congress."
"Congress party is like a big ship. Saving the Congress, 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 it," he explained.
Mr Kumar was with the Communist Party of India (CPI) since 2019 and was a student leader of JNU prior to that. As reported earlier, he met Rahul Gandhi twice recently and also met Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
As president of the JNU Students' Union, Kanhaiya Kumar was jailed over alleged "anti-national slogans" raised at an event in 2016 to mark the death anniversary of Parliament attack mastermind Afzal Guru.
The BJP ridiculed the move of Kanhaiya Kumar and Bihar Minister Mangal Pandey told ANI that he is changing his ideology and party for political ambition. He quickly added, "He's going to a party that has been rejected by Bihar and is a sinking boat now."
Jignesh Mevani, an MLA in Guajarat and a Dalit leader, said his support for the Congress is vital. "I could not join the Congress formally due to technical reasons. I am an independent MLA, if I join a party, I may not continue as an MLA...I am part of the Congress ideologically but I will fight the upcoming Gujarat polls from Congress symbol," Mewani explained.
Announcing their induction into the party, Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal said the party was looking forward to working with them to defeat "fascist forces" in the country.
"Kanhaiya Kumar is a symbol of the fight for freedom of expression in this country. He fought against fundamentalism as a student leader. The joining of kind of dynamic personality will fill the entire cadre of Congress with enthusiasm," Mr Venugopal said.
The Congress has made it a high profile induction with presence of senior leaders on the day coinciding with the birth anniversary of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. However, the developments in Punjab dominated the scene with Navjot Singh Sidhu's resignation as state PCC chief early in the morning.
Both the leaders had met Rahul Gandhi recently and the Congress wanted to rope in these two leaders ahead of assembly polls and particularly Mevani and Patel before Gujarat polls for their oratory and crowd pulling capabilities.
Mevani is an independent MLA in Gujarat and has won election with the support of the Congress. The trio of Alpesh Thakor, Hardik Patel and Mevani was with the Congress in 2017 elections when Congress did put up a good show but could not win elections and now Congress wants to rope in Mevani ahead of polls while Alpesh has joined the BJP.
Sources in the Congress say that he has been meeting Rahul Gandhi in the past and the offer to join the party has been pending since the last Lok Sabha polls. Sources also said that during the talks in the past, Kanhaiya Kumar had emphasised on having his own team to work in Bihar in order to start a movement and then gradually take it to the national level.
The Congress in Bihar in the recent Assembly polls was almost routed. It could manage to win just 19 seats out of 70 seats it contested in alliance with the RJD and its performance was considered one of the reasons for the defeat of the grand alliance.