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Day of the dynasts in Bihar — Tejashwi gets dad Lalu’s approval as Chirag ‘shows up’ uncle

Monday marked the first birth anniversary of Ram Vilas Paswan since his death in October 2020, and 25th foundation day of RJD, bringing a frenzy of political activity in Bihar.

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Patna: On a day Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Yadav, addressing his party workers for the first time in three-and-a-half years, virtually settled the succession debate in his family in favour of Tejashwi Yadav, another dynast, late Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s son, Chirag, seemed to have got the better of his estranged uncle in what appeared to be a show of strength on the birth anniversary of the late Dalit leader and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) founder.     

Monday marked the first birth anniversary of Ram Vilas Paswan since his death in October 2020, and also the 25th foundation day of the RJD, bringing a frenzy of political activity in Bihar. 

Chirag used the occasion to strike back after being sidelined by his MP uncle, Pashupati Kumar Paras, who — accompanied by four of the party’s six MPs — ousted him as LJP parliamentary party leader last month.

While large crowds greeted Chirag’s ‘Ashirwad Yatra’, the memorial event organised by Paras at the LJP office in Patna had just about 600 participants.

The response received by Chirag’s ‘Ashirwad Yatra’ caused some apprehensions in the BJP — which allies with the LJP at the Centre — about the possible toll of ignoring the former actor in favour of his uncle. 

Meanwhile, another young dynast — former deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, who led the RJD to emerge as the largest party in last year’s assembly polls in his father’s absence — found his place in the party validated by Lalu. As Lalu asked his party to follow Tejashwi, he credited his younger son and wife for saving his life.

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

Voice slurred, but jibes continue 

An ailing Lalu addressed his party members in Bihar from Delhi. Flanked by wife Rabri Devi and daughter Misa Bharti, Lalu slurred a bit and looked frail but rained many of his typical jabs as he lashed out at the Modi government at the Centre and the Nitish Kumar administration in Bihar. 

This was his first address to party workers since he went to jail in Ranchi in 2017 after his conviction in the fodder scam. He was released on bail earlier this year.

RJD chief Lalu Prasad makes a virtual address Monday to party members in Bihar, from Delhi | ANI
RJD chief Lalu Prasad makes a virtual address Monday to party members in Bihar, from Delhi | ANI

“Had the prices of fuel increased to this proportion (under the UPA), they (BJP leaders) would have climbed trees and hurled abuses at us,” said Lalu. 

Lashing out at them for polarising the nation, he said he had warned earlier that the BJP in power would mean a divided India. 

“Tell me, what I had predicted, has it come true or not?” he said, adding that he would prefer to die rather than join hands with the BJP. 

He also reflected on his time in jail, saying he would have died in Ranchi if not for Tejashwi and Rabri. “I survived because of Tejashwi and Rabri Devi and I had to be flown by a special plane to Delhi,” he said. 

Through his 40-minute speech, Lalu also stressed the stated philosophy of his party — uplift of the backwards and the downtrodden. 

“Before I came to power, the downtrodden classes did not dare to go to government offices,” he said, promising his supporters that he would come to Patna.

Lalu only named old warhorses of the party — Jagdanand Tiwari, Shivanand Tiwari, Shyam Rajak, Abdul Bari Siddiqui, among others — in his address and not the newer leaders as he spoke about the RJD. 

However, he gave a clear message to his followers — follow Tejashwi. 

His address, RJD members said, had served to energise the party.

“Laluji did look weak but his presence energises the party,” RJD MLA Bhai Birendar told ThePrint, stressing that Lalu is “like God to his followers”.

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

Chirag outmanoeuvres uncle

Marking his late father’s first birth anniversary, Chirag held a roadshow from Patna to Hajipur, the Lok Sabha seat Ram Vilas Paswan represented for seven terms after 1977 and later handed over to Paras. One of the stops included Sultanpur, an all-Paswan (a Dalit group) village of 3,000 adopted by his father. 

When Chirag arrived from Delhi at the Patna airport Monday, the premises were packed with his supporters. As he moved towards Hajipur through Gandhi Setu, a traffic snarl ensued.

LJP leader Chirag Paswan is welcomed by party supporters at Patna airport during his 'Ashirvad Yatra' Monday | ANI
LJP leader Chirag Paswan is welcomed by party supporters at Patna airport during his ‘Ashirvad Yatra’ Monday | ANI

“My father told me that if you are right in your beliefs, then you should go ahead, even alone, the number of people following you will increase,” he said. 

The roadshow was seen as a show of strength by Chirag. The young MP appeared to have stepped on the BJP’s feet in the 2020 assembly election as he built his campaign around criticising Nitish while vowing support to the BJP. He opted out of the NDA in Bihar but said he was part of the coalition at the Centre. The campaign was seen as a failure, with the LJP winning only one seat, but the party is believed to have cut into the vote-share of the BJP-led NDA.

The Paras faction appeared overwhelmed by the response Chirag received. “This was not the day for a show of strength. This was the birth anniversary of the late Ram Vilas Paswn and Chirag should have celebrated it in Jamui (Chirag’s constituency),” Paras told ThePrint. The Print. 

Political circles are abuzz with speculation that Chirag may leave his seat in Jamui in the next election and opt for Hajipur to give a direct fight to his uncle.

Nitish missing, BJP worried 

While the RJD observed Ram Vilas Paswan’s birth anniversary in their office and Lalu offered tribute to the late leader by declaring him an old friend, PM Narendra Modi tweeted a message for the departed Dalit politician. 

The only party and leader missing in the flow of tributes was the JD(U) and its chief, Nitish — a point noted by Chirag at his rally. “My chacha (uncle) did not celebrate the occasion,” he said. 

JD(U) leaders appeared surprised by the silence. “Nitish ji tweets his tribute to so many departed leaders but has remained silent on this occasion. Perhaps it suits his politics to keep the Paswans isolated from other Dalits,” said a JD(U) MLA not wanting to be named. 

Meanwhile, Chirag’s show of strength had the BJP worried. “After the response Chirag received, the leadership should think if it can afford to ignore him and push him towards the RJD,” a BJP MP told ThePrint, refusing to be named.

Addressing speculation about Paras being included in the Union Cabinet, the MP added, “Inducting Paras will be like carrying deadwood.”

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

Also Read: How Tejashwi went from failed cricketer & a Lok Sabha disaster to almost chief minister


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