Having burnt his bridges with the NDA, Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) chief Chirag Paswan is now set to join the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-led alliance in Bihar.
Chirag, son of former union minister Ram Vilas Paswan who founded the LJP in 2000 after he broke away from the Janata Dal (United), has taken a series of disastrous decisions ever since he was made the LJP president by his father in November 2019.
Ram Vilas Paswan had broken away from the NDA in 2002 and joined the UPA in 2004. He returned to the NDA before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls after a series of electoral setbacks and served as a union minister till his death in October last year.
His son Chirag steered the party to a disaster in the last Assembly elections in Bihar in November 2020. Chirag developed an antipathy towards Nitish Kumar and started criticising him while asserting that he remained part of the NDA.
While playing the unsavoury game of criticising a major partner of the alliance (NDA) that he remained part of, Chirag fielded candidates against JD(U) nominees in all the 115 seats the latter contested from.
Chirag Paswan, despite advice from his party seniors including his own uncle Pashupati Paras (who is the Lok Sabha MP from Hajipur), also fielded candidates in twenty other constituencies where BJP and other NDA allies—Vikasheel Insaan Party and Hindustan Awam Morcha—were contesting from.
The LJP won just one seat, but scuppered the JD(U)’s prospects in at least 40 constituencies. As a result, the JD(U) won only 43 seats as compared to the 71 seats it won in 2015. The JD(U) became a junior partner in the NDA (the BJP won 74 seats) and Nitish Kumar never seems to have forgiven Chirag for that.
Kumar extracted his revenge by luring away the lone LJP MLA soon after the elections and also engineering a split in the LJP that left Chirag isolated.
Five of the six LJP Lok Sabha MPs revolted against Chirag. The five include his uncle (father’s younger brother) Pashupati Kumar Paras and his paternal cousin Prince Raj. After tit-for-tat expulsions—the five removed Chirag from the party president’s post and then Chirag expelled them from the party—the LJP split with a major section of functionaries going along with Paras.
Paras renamed his faction as the Rashtriya Lok Janshakti Party (RLJP) while Chirag’s faction is now known as LJP (Ram Vilas). The RLJP is part of the NDA and Paras was inducted into the union cabinet in the last reshuffle.
Chirag fielded candidates in the bypolls for two seats—Kusheshwar Asthan and Tarapur—held in late October this year, hoping to once again harm the prospects of the JD(U) candidates. But that did not work and Chirag’s nominees came a distant third with the RJD ending as the runner-up behind the JD(U) in both the seats.
Chirag’s decision to field candidates in the bypolls was also an unwise one since it resulted in his nominees harming the Congress’ prospects.
In Kusheshwar Asthan, the LJP (Ram Vilas) candidate polled 5,623 votes, just 20 more than the Congress candidate. In Tarapur, the LJP (Ram Vilas) nominee polled 1,774 votes more than the Congress candidate. In both the seats, the Congress vote share decreased dramatically and the candidates lost their deposits.
The Congress, which had severed ties with the RJD just before the bypolls, blamed Chirag for its extremely poor show in the bypolls. That ended any chances of an alliance or political or electoral understanding between the Congress and the LJP (Ram Vilas) at the national level.
Faced with bleak political prospects and staring at a virtual dead-end, Chirag Paswan is now planning to take his faction into the RJD-led mahagathbandhan (grand alliance). Paswan is likely to announce this at a ceremony to celebrate the LJP’s foundation day on 28 November.
According to sources in the RJD, Chirag Paswan has been in talks with that party for the past few weeks. Chirag is desperate to establish his faction’s presence in Bihar and has negotiated with the RJD to get at least five nominees elected to the Bihar Legislative Council.
The Council elections will be held soon and 24 seats of the Upper House in the state are up for grabs. Paswan wants the RJD’s support to win five of these seats. The RJD has reportedly agreed to his proposal in return for the LJP (Ram Vilas) joining the mahagathbandhan.
Winning five Council seats and thus having five MLCs (Member of Legislative Council) is crucial for Chirag’s political survival in Bihar since he does not have a single MLA or MP (save himself) in his faction.
With almost all LJP functionaries siding with his uncle and joining the RLJP, Chirag was left isolated. Even some of his staunch supporters deserted him and joined his uncle because they saw little prospect in the LJP (Ram Vilas).
Had Chirag kept himself politically aloof, he would have lost the few remaining supporters he now has. That’s why he was desperate to join the RJD-led alliance after the NDA’s doors were shut firmly on him at Nitish Kumar’s behest.
While Paswan may get a few of his nominees elected as MLCs with the RJD’s support in the immediate future, aligning with the RJD could cost him in the medium and long run.
“The RJD is eyeing the Dalit votebank of the LJP. The RJD’s post poll analysis revealed that the lack of support from Dalits was one of the primary reasons the mahagathbandhan failed to get a majority in last year’s Assembly elections. Hence, having the LJP (Ram Vilas) within the mahagathbandhan that it leads will help it get the support of at least a sizable section of the Dalits,” said political analyst Alokesh Tiwari.
But that, too, is uncertain since the party founded by Ram Vilas Paswan is a badly divided house now with both his brother (Paras) and his son (Chirag) laying claim to his legacy. Chirag has been repeatedly stating that he was anointed LJP chief by his then ailing father and his uncle (Paras) has revolted and divided the LJP out of his hunger for power.
Paras has maintained that since he was asked by his elder brother (Ram Vilas) to contest from Hajipur, the Lok Sabha seat that the LJP founder represented eight times since he first won it in 1977, he is the actual political heir of Ram Vilas Paswan.
Paras has also accused Chirag of betraying Ram Vilas Paswan’s legacy by playing a dangerous game by fielding candidates against NDA nominees in last year’s Assembly elections.
“My elder brother remained with the BJP-led NDA till his death. He remained a Union Minister in the second Modi cabinet till he breathed his last. But even as he lay in his deathbed, Chirag Paswan betrayed his legacy by trying to damage the NDA’s prospects in the Assembly polls. He (Chirag) has forfeited all claims to Ram Vilas’ legacy,” Paras told Swarajya.
Political observers in Bihar say that Chirag cannot take the support of his father’s Dalit votebank for granted. Also, the RJD, after garnering the support of at least a section of the Dalits who are with Chirag, will have little use for Chirag and will dump him.
“The RJD will not allow Chirag to grow politically and will not give him much political space. Past experience has shown that while the RJD gets the votes of its allies’ vote banks, the RJD vote bank does not get transferred to the party’s allies. Thus, in elections, while the RJD gets the support of, say, the Congress supporters, the Congress has never received the support of the RJD’s core vote bank. The RJD eats into the vote bank of its allies who get systematically weakened,” said Jiten Singh, a former professor of sociology at Patna University.
Singh said that this is exactly why the Congress has distanced itself from the RJD in Bihar. “The Congress realised that while the RJD benefits from the alliance, the Congress itself loses,” he added.
“This is exactly what will happen to Chirag Paswan as well. He will be left high and dry and will become politically irrelevant soon,” said Singh.
Paras says that his nephew (Chirag) has dug his own grave. Despite being cautioned repeatedly by Paras and other senior leaders of the party, Chirag embarked on the high-risk game of hunting with the hounds and running with the hares.
“Remaining within the NDA and then fielding candidates against NDA nominees was suicidal and our voters saw through his game. That’s why we won just one seat. But even after that disaster last year, Chirag has not learnt his lesson. Instead of making amends, he is now courting another disaster by joining hands with the RJD. This will mark the beginning of the end of his political career,” warned Paras.
If Pashupati Paras’ dire predictions about his nephew comes true, Chirag will have none to blame but himself. And he will prove to be an antithesis to his father who was renowned for his sharp political acumen.
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