Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Chirag Paswan arrives to meet party leader Pashupati Kumar Paras at his house, in New Delhi.
NEW DELHI/PATNA: In a contemporary version of the palace coups of yore, Lok Janshakti Party founder Ramvilas Paswan’s brother and nephew combined to depose the late Dalit leader’s son Chirag Paswan as leader of the family outfit in Lok Sabha.
Five of the six LJP MPs joined the putsch, leaving Chirag with the legacy of his late father, a respected figure for Dusadhs, a Dalit category in Bihar. Ramvilas Paswan’s younger brother Pashupati Paras — a known figure in Bihar politics who has served in several ministries and currently represents Hajipur, the constituency of the elder sibling, in Lok Sabha — is the new leader. Ramvilas’s nephew Prince Raj too has sided with Paras.
Chirag’s dethronement climaxed a dizzying turn of events, which unfolded in public glare since Sunday evening, and is widely believed to have been executed by JD(U) as revenge against Chirag for causing the defeat of Nitish Kumar’s nominees in the last assembly polls. The precision targeting of JD(U) nominees left the party languishing in the third spot, way behind its arch-rival RJD as well as ally BJP.
Seething with resentment, JD(U) had sworn revenge. It was exacted in a forensic manner, with Chirag failing to get wind of the plot until the rebels had met the Lok Sabha Speaker late Sunday evening with the plea that they be recognised as a separate group under Paras. JD(U) was, quite naturally, thrilled with the success of the game plan, with party chief R C P Singh exulting, “Chirag has reaped what he had sown.”
BJP kept an indulgent distance from the goings on but did not appear to be mourning Chirag’s embarrassment. Indeed, party functionary in Bihar Prem Ranjan Patel said the Paswan dynast invited it all upon himself. The speed with which the “rebels” got recognised as a separate group, within less than 24 hours of meeting Speaker Om Birla, was also being talked about in political circles. To be sure, however, the rebels fulfilled all the criteria laid down under the anti-defection law to earn the recognition from the Speaker for being the “real” stuff.
BJP, used to the old school politics practised by Ramvilas Paswan, was wary of Chirag’s swagger and maximalist posture. During the LJP-JD(U) feud, it had maintained a posture of neutrality, much to the annoyance of JD(U), which quickly sniffed a conspiracy. BJP soured on Chirag after seeing that he had also undercut the prospects of saffron candidates and had smoothened the way for RJD biggies, Tejaswi and Tej Pratap.
The “hands off” stance during JD(U)’s retaliation can help minimise the pall of any suspicion lingering in JD(U) about a closet understanding between its ally and Chirag, its self-avowed rival.
Of course, family equations played an important part, with Paras always suspected to be smarting under Chirag, who tried, unspectacularly so, his hand at acting before coming into the family vocation. Paras was hugely embarrassed when pressure from Chirag forced him to eat his praise for Nitish.
He was helped by the discomfort that many MPs, mostly a bunch of political adventurers, and others had felt about Chirag’s style, finding it to be too formal and distant.
On Monday, with the tables turned on him by an uncle who remained unscrupulously devout to Ramvilas Paswan, and a cousin who appeared absolutely blissful playing second fiddle, Chirag tried to reach out to the estranged part of the family. He drove to the apartment where the rebels were holding a meeting but Paras dodged him.
With the rebels having been recognised as the LJP, Chirag is left with only the “sympathy card”. He can hope to turn it into an ace by tapping into the reverence the Paswan community has for Ramvilas if he shows the determination and endurance for a contest which is three years away.