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Chirag Paswan takes out full-page ads, NDA leaders see it as an attack on Nitish Kumar

The ruling JD(U) is also worried as the advertisement comes days after the NDA inducted Jitan Ram Manjhi, whom the LJP sees as a counter to Paswan.

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Patna: Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) president Chirag Paswan has created a stir in Bihar’s political circles over a full-page advertisement that his party has had splashed in several newspapers Friday.

The advertisement is titled ‘Bihar 1st, Bihari 1st’ but also goes on to add — Wo Lar Rahey Hain Ham Par Raj Karney Ke Liye, Ham Lar Rahe Hi Bihar Par Naaz Karney Keloye (They are fighting to rule over us, I am fighting to bring pride to Bihar).

The statement is being seen as a veiled attack on Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, despite the LJP being a part of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), though it is not part of the Bihar government. It comes on the back of former chief minister Jitan Ram Manhji rejoining the NDA.

Manjhi, like Chirag Paswan, is a Dalit. His entry is being seen as an attempt by Nitish to counter Paswan who has attacked the chief minister over issues related to returning migrant labourers, handling of the Covid crisis and the devastating floods.

Manjhi was among the first to react to the advertisement. “We will not tolerate any revolt against Nitish Kumar. I will answer the question asked by LJP,” Manjhi said, insisting that he had joined the NDA without any conditions. “I joined because of Nitish Kumar,” he said.

The LJP says that there is nothing wrong with the advertisement.

“It is in keeping with what our national president Chirag Paswan has been saying all along — Bihar first, Bihari first. It is not against Nitish Kumar and we are very much a part of NDA,” LJP spokesperson Ashraf Ansari told The Print.

He added that Chirag had planned to travel across Bihar on the same issue but it could not be done because of the Covid situation. “It is not as if we are saying it for the first time,” he said.

Also read: RJD and CPI move past Kanhaiya Kumar issue, plan to fight Bihar assembly polls together

JD(U) worried about timing of ad

It is the timing of the advertisement, however, that has the JD(U) worried.

It comes just two days after Manjhi announced that his Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) was rejoining the NDA. The announcement came at a time that the chief minister was looking for Dalit faces for the NDA ahead of assembly elections later this year. 

“The advertisement fails to specify who he is attacking — Tejashwi Yadav or Nitish Kumar”, said a JDU leader, adding that it comes when seat-sharing talks are in its initial stage.

There is unease in the NDA over the sharing of Bihar’s 243 seats. The BJP is insisting that Nitish follow the same formula as the 2019 Lok Sabha polls of equal seats. The JD(U), however, wants 115 seats, leaving the remaining for the others. The LJP, which won six Lok Sabha seats, insists that it should be given 36 assembly constituencies. Manjhi’s entry further muddles this mess.

LJP leaders, however, see nothing wrong with the timing and point to Manjhi’s NDA entry. “It is a direct attempt to dilute the contribution of LJP, which brings Paswan votes to the NDA,” alleged a LJP leader.

Bihar’s Dalit vote

All the manoeuvring is an attempt to capture Bihar’s Dalit vote.

Dalits constitute about 16 per cent of the state’s population. Of this, 6 per cent are Paswans, a dominant section of Dalits who are known to be aggressive voters. For over two decades, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has been acknowledged as their leader, a reputation that has led to him being courted for every Parliamentary election.

Chirag Paswan is now the inheritor of his father’s legacy, even though the party’s sway over the Paswan vote, according to rivals, is waning.

Manjhi, meanwhile, is a Musahar, who are just 2.5 per cent of the population and are spread across Gaya, Jehanabad and parts of North Bihar. Unlike the Paswans. The Musahars are not aggressive voters. It was only after Manjhi was made chief minister that he was acknowledged as their leader.

So far, however, Manjhi had failed to prove that the Musahars rally behind him as in two successive elections — the 2015 assembly and 2019 Lok Sabha — he has not delivered for his allies, the BJP in 2015 and the RJD in 2019.

Also read: BJP-JDU back to harping on Lalu’s Gabbar image & Jungle Raj but it’s unlikely to work in 2020



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