In the political arena, Chirag Paswan faces the chief minister, a confused BJP that has to wager peace between two sparring allies, and a friends-or-foes possibility with Tejashwi Yadav-led RJD
An overnight coup within the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) ended on Monday with the late Ram Vilas Paswan’s brother Pashupati Kumar Paras replacing the departed leader’s son Chirag Paswan as the party leader in Lok Sabha with the support of five of the six LJP MPs in the Lower House.
Chirag had led the charge against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the Assembly elections, fielding nominees against all JD(U) candidates, many of them rebels from the BJP. Although the NDA secured the majority, JD(U) ended up winning in 43 seats as opposed to the 71 seats in the previous Assembly polls, leaving the BJP with the upper hand.
The MPs who chose Paras include Prince Raj, Chandan Singh, Veena Devi and Mehboob Ali Kaiser. Earlier this year,LJP MLA Raj Kumar Singh crossed over to the JD(U), while the party’s lone MLC Nutan Singh had quit the party and joined the BJP.
The LJP also saw over 200 members of the party joining the JD(U) and an almost equal number of panchayat-level functionaries of West Champaran switching to the BJP in February. The rebels alleged that there was no internal democracy in the party, according to a News18 report.
What do the rebel LJP MPs want?
Shortly after being elected leader of Lok Sabha, Paras asserted that 99 percent of LJP workers were unhappy with the turn of events in Bihar as Paswan led the LJP against the JD(U). Paras said his group will continue to be part of the BJP-led NDA.
Paras was also insulted when Chirag did not check with him about the party’s candidates for the November 2020 Assembly election, NDTV reported. Moreover, discontent was being seen among cadres too. LJP insiders alleged that this was a crisis waiting to happen, mainly because of Chirag’s perceived arrogance. “He never bothered to keep his promise of touring the state and interacting with the party workers, made just after the Assembly elections,” sources said.
In a statement released to the media, Paras has said that being part of the NDA both at the Centre and the state was a “wish” senior Paswan always had. His statement comes amid reports that a Union Cabinet reshuffle is in the offing.
However, during the 2020 Bihar election campaign trail, the BJP seemed reluctant to embrace the LJP. Even as Chirag claimed there would be a BJP-LJP government after the polls and called Narendra Modi Lord Rama and himself Hanuman, the did not say a word about the LJP or its leader, the prime minister did not mention the leader or his party.
Home minister Amit Shah had said that the LJP’s position as an NDA ally would be considered after the polls, but Nitish Kumar got another term as chief minister.
Moreover, last year, the JD(U) had also objected to Chirag’s participation in an NDA meeting in New Delhi.
What it means for JD(U)
While the JD(U) chief has credited the LJP’s current standing to “efforts put in by Pashupati Kumar Paras and Ram Chandra Paswan (Prince Raj’s late father)”, adding that Chirag failed to keep the flock together, JD(U) leaders had told Indian Express that it would not let the BJP make the LJP part of the NDA or the Union Cabinet.
JD(U), which bore the brunt of Chirag’s brinkmanship in the Assembly polls last year, said the LJP president was reaping what he had sown. “It is a well known adage that as you sow, so you reap. Chirag was heading a party which was with the NDA. Yet, he adopted a stance that damaged it in the Assembly polls. This led to a sense of unease within his own party,” JD(U) national president RCP Singh told reporters.
Way ahead for Chirag Paswan
While internal murmurs in the party project a dissatisfaction with Chirag’s management since he announced LJP will fight the Assembly elections against NDA partner (JDU), the young leader may have to look at building trust to keep the 21-year-old party alive.
Chirag had dissolved the state working committee and the district units on 5 December, 2020, to save the party from a split but new functionaries were not appointed till months later, according to News18.
With Nitish still miffed with his radical move against the NDA in the previous polls, Chirag faces the chief minister as an opponent, a confused BJP that has to wager peace between two sparring allies, and a possibility of being either foes or friends with Tejashwi Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal.
RJD’s national vice-president Shivanand Tiwari said the NDA members should not take Chirag lightly.
“The BJP always has a habit of using its allies. But it is for Chirag to decide his future course. The next election in Bihar is scheduled in 2025. There is still a lot of time for Chirag to weigh his options. It is still too early to write him off,” Tiwari told The Print.