Bihar: Nitish Kumar Looks Set To Have The Last Laugh With Chirag Paswan’s LJP Headed For Decimation

Bihar: Nitish Kumar Looks Set To Have The Last Laugh With Chirag Paswan’s LJP Headed For DecimationNitish Kumar is caught between the devil and the deep sea. (Arijit Sen/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • Ever since Chirag Paswan started speaking out against Nitish Kumar and fielded candidates against the JD(U), Kumar has been very angry and highly critical of him.

    According to political circles in Patna, the five LJP MPs are likely to join the JD(U), thus taking the JD(U)’s strength in the Lok Sabha from the present 16 to 21.

    The BJP had won 17 seats from Bihar in 2019.

The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) faces an unprecedented crisis and the prospect of complete decimation with five of its six Lok Sabha MPs revolting against founder Ram Vilas Paswan's son and successor Chirag.

The five, led by Chirag’s paternal uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras, have reportedly written to Lok Sabha Speaker to recognise them as a separate entity.

Paras is the Lok Sabha member from Hajipur, a seat that was represented by Ram Vilas Paswan eight times since 1977. He is a younger brother of the LJP founder.

The group also includes Samastipur Lok Sabha MP and Chirag’s cousin (son of the late Ram Chandra Paswan, another younger brother of the LJP founder) Prince Raj.

The other three parliamentarians are Nawada Lok Sabha MP Chandan Singh, Vaishali MP Veena Devi and Khagaria Lok Sabha MP Memboob Ali Kaiser.

Though the five have said that they are fed up with Chirag Paswan’s ‘highhandedness’ and ‘authoritarian style of functioning’, the five are upset with Chirag for his decision to snap ties with the Janata Dal (United) before the last Assembly elections in Bihar.

Chirag’s decision to field candidates against the JD(U) while remaining part of the NDA was unilateral and taken without consulting any other leader of the party, they allege.

Lok Janshakti Party leader Chirag Paswan.
Lok Janshakti Party leader Chirag Paswan.

The LJP fielded candidates in 135 of the 243 Assembly seats, but managed to win only one seat — Matihani in Begusarai district.

That lone LJP legislator — Raj Kumar Singh — joined the JD(U) in early April this year, dealing the first blow to Chirag Paswan.

The LJP candidates cut into the votes of the JD(U), whose tally of seats came down from 71 to 48.

The JD(U), which was the largest party in the NDA in Bihar, was reduced to the number two position with the BJP becoming the ‘big brother’ with 74 seats.

The BJP had won 53 seats in 2015. After the Assembly election results were announced, Chirag Paswan publicly announced that he had succeeded in his mission of weakening the JD(U).

Nitish Kumar and some other JD(U) leaders have always suspected that some central BJP leaders had propped Chirag Paswan to sabotage the JD(U)’s electoral prospects by fielding candidates against the JD(U).

“They (some JD (U) leaders) felt that a section of the top central leadership of the BJP wanted to punish Nitish Kumar for breaking away from the NDA in 2014 over Narendra Modi’s projection as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate then,” political observer and columnist Satyanand Jha told Swarajya from Patna.

The JD(U) formed a mahagathbandhan with Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress. This alliance won 178 seats in the 2015 assembly polls and formed the government with Nitish Kumar as the chief minister in.

But Kumar left the mahagathbandhan in 2017 over many differences with Lalu Yadav and returned to the NDA.

“Though he was welcomed back to the NDA and the BJP insisted in the run-up to the Assembly elections last year that Kumar would become the chief minister once again, some of Kumar’s colleagues felt that the BJP played a double game and encouraged Chirag Paswan’s misadventure in order to weaken the JD(U). They felt that some top BJP leaders hadn’t forgiven Kumar for walking out of the NDA in 2014 and wanted to teach him a lesson,” said Jha.

The NDA — BJP, JD(U), Jiten Ram Majhi’s Hindustan Awam Morcha (HAM) and Vikassheel Insan Party — won a majority by a whisker.

The NDA barely scraped through with 125 seats, just three more than the majority (of 122) required in the 243-member Assembly. The RJD emerged as the single largest party with 74 seats, one more than the BJP’s tally of 73.

Ever since Chirag Paswan started speaking out against Nitish Kumar and fielded candidates against the JD(U), Kumar has been angry and critical of him.

And now, with five of his fellow-MPs ditching him, Chirag Paswan has been left high and dry while the party his father founded is staring at imminent obliteration.

According to political circles in Patna, the five LJP MPs are likely to join the JD(U), thus taking the JD(U)’s strength in the Lok Sabha from the present 16 to 21. The BJP had won 17 seats from Bihar in 2019.

A lot will depend on Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla. The five LJP MPs may also appeal to the Speaker to recognise them as the LJP since they form the overwhelming majority of the LJP parliamentary party in the Lok Sabha.

If the Speaker accepts their plea, Chirag Paswan will himself be unceremoniously cast out of the party, whose leadership he inherited from his father.

That will be sweet revenge for Nitish Kumar. He would have relegated Chirag Paswan, his tormentor during the Assembly polls last year, to political wilderness. And more than that, he would have demonstrated his centrality to Bihar politics.

The revolt by the five LJP MPs also provides heft to Kumar’s demand for a ‘respectable’ number of berths in the Union council of ministers.

The BJP had offered ‘token representation’ in the Union cabinet to its allies after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The JD(U) and the LJP were offered one cabinet berth each.

Nitish Kumar had refused to accept the offer and had been demanding proportional representation. He has been arguing that if the LJP with six MPs can be offered one berth, the JD(U) with 16 MPs should be offered at least three.

After the exit of the Shiv Sena from the NDA, the JD(U) is the second largest party in the BJP-led alliance.

The JD(U) has also been arguing that since five of the BJP’s 17 MPs from Bihar are Union ministers — three hold cabinet ranks and two are Ministers of State — the party (JD-U), by that token, should be given as many berths in the Union cabinet. But the BJP has been staving off that demand.

Now, with talk of an impending expansion of the Union cabinet, the JD(U) has revived the demand. If the five LJP Lok Sabha MPs join the JD(U) and its numbers swell to 21, the JD(U) will even demand six berths in the Union council of ministers.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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