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Chirag Paswan put hopes on ‘Bihar first, Bihari first’. He is now having to save LJP first

Chirag Paswan is forced to launch a fight not just to save his father Ram Vilas Paswan's legacy but also his party LJP, which is caught between two power centres.

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The Lok Janshakti Party’s ‘chirag’ is surrounded by many shadows, one of which threatens to hurt the two-decade-old socialist party’s legacy in Bihar — a familial rift. Chirag Paswan, the Lok Sabha Member of Parliament from Jamui constituency and the son of LJP founder Ram Vilas Paswan, is faced with his toughest political battle yet — save the party and his father’s political legacy from going into the hands of someone who stands with his adversary, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.

Since the 13 June ‘coup’ led by his uncle and Hajipur MP Pashupati Kumar Paras, Chirag Paswan has been in a state of flux. Five LJP MPs rebelled against him and went to Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla with a letter nominating Pashupati as the party’s parliamentary party leader. The rebel MPs also ‘ousted’ Chirag from the post of LJP president after the latter expelled them for “anti-party activities”.

Chirag Paswan had hoped his political career would grow on the base built by his father, but things have taken a turn for the worse in a matter of days. He is now in the spotlight facing difficult questions and no easy answers — from his political acumen to his leadership quality, every aspect is now under scrutiny. This is why Chirag Paswan is ThePrint’s Newsmaker of the Week.

Also read: LJP’s Pashupati Paras, the ‘reluctant’ politician stepping out of late brother Paswan’s shadow

Chirag’s changed fortunes

The junior Paswan must have known that life in politics would be difficult, especially in the absence of his veteran father. But he seemed ready to take the fight to established leaders in Bihar when he walked out of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ahead of the 2020 assembly election and launched a clear fight against Nitish Kumar.

But even as he pitted himself against the veteran leader, successfully hurting Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) on at least 40 seats in the assembly election, he didn’t quite address the dissenting voices within his own party. Several LJP leaders led by Pashupati Paras were against Chirag’s decision to part ways with the NDA and contest the election alone. Soon, the revolt became just a question of ‘when’.

The rebel MPs have now made their intentions clear. In a statement released to the media, they expressed their desire to join the NDA fold because that’s what Chirag’s late father always “wished”.

Aside from questions being raised about Chirag’s leadership abilities, the common belief among Pashupati-led LJP camp is that Chirag’s decisions were heavily influenced by his personal assistant and advisor, Saurabh Pandey. Chirag’s cousin Prince Raj, MP from Samastipur and one of the rebels, told The Indian Express, without naming Pandey, that he was solely “responsible for the crisis” in the party. “Bhaiya (Chirag), acting on the advice of his personal assistant, kept taking decisions that were not going down well with other party members. This was the reason why many quit the party, while many others were unhappy,” Prince Raj said.

Also read: Look beyond Chirag Paswan’s failure. Dynastic politics is what keeps regional parties afloat

Troubles for the ‘Yuva Bihari

Born to a Punjabi mother and a Bihari father, 38-year-old Chirag Paswan is an alumnus of Air Force Golden Jubilee Institute, Delhi. He took admission in Amity University to pursue engineering, but left the course midway to try his luck in Bollywood. He failed to make any impact with his only film, Miley Naa Miley Hum with co-star Kangana Ranaut, performing poorly at the Box Office. His father Ram Vilas Paswan had even arranged a special screening for the Gandhi family in Delhi.

In 2013, Chirag Paswan was made the LJP’s parliamentary party board president. According to veteran journalist Pradeep Shrivastava’s book Ramvilas Paswan: Sankalp, Sahas Aur Sangharsh, the senior Paswan was clear that he did not want two power centres in the LJP because that would confuse the workers and leaders. Having worked extensively to revive the LJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha election after the party’s worst performance just five years ago, Chirag Paswan had proved his electoral and political acumen and left little doubt in the minds of Ram Vilas Paswan about his successor. After the senior Paswan’s death in October 2020, Chirag took over the reins of the LJP.

In the run-up to the 2020 Bihar election, Chirag Paswan added ‘Yuva Bihari’ before his name on Twitter to assert his identity. He also announced his signature campaign ‘Bihar First, Bihari First’, dotting his party’s poll manifesto with various promises.

Now, and against the wishes of Ram Vilas Paswan, the LJP has two power centres — one led by Chirag and another by his uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras who has the support of four other MPs. The LJP has no member in the Bihar assembly either as its only winning candidate in the 2020 election, Raj Kumar Singh, later joined the JD(U).

The time ahead won’t be easy for Chirag Paswan. What makes it more difficult is that, unlike his father who enjoyed a good rapport with Patna journalists while maintaining a constant interaction with the people from his constituency, Chirag keeps a close circle of admirers and is known among Bihar journalists as ‘a Khan Market-visiting Delhi guy’.

As he begins the task of reaching out to the people of Bihar, Chirag Paswan realises he will have to build a base independent of his father’s legacy. But there is a more pressing concern at hand — save the LJP first.

Views are personal.

(Edited by Prashant Dixit)

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