Patna: Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Chirag Paswan’s unceremonious eviction from the official bungalow allotted to his late father and former Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan in the national capital last week has triggered a bitter squabble between him and his estranged uncle, current Union cabinet minister Pashupati Kumar Paras.
While Paswan said his uncle “should be ashamed that portraits of his brother, whom he called his god, were trampled on by the government in which he is a minister”, Paras clapped back saying that whatever was happening was “because he (Chirag) betrayed the alliance my brother was a part of”.
Speaking to ThePrint Monday, Chirag Paswan skirted a query on whether he was still “Modi’s Hanuman”, as he had once proclaimed.
“I had said that I am PM Modi’s Hanuman when my father was on the ventilator. The PM at that time not only kept calling me, but also the doctors who were treating him (Ram Vilas Paswan). PM Modi was like a guardian and I was deeply indebted to him for standing by me at the time of crisis,” said Chirag, also an LJP MP from Bihar’s Jamui seat.
He insisted that his remark had nothing to do with the assembly polls that followed in 2020, in which he went against Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) while staying part of the BJP-led NDA at the Centre. “Accepting the misrule would have been the easiest way. But I decided to contest the polls on my own,” he added.
Now, with the next state assembly election three years away, Chirag Paswan is keeping his options open, his close associates said. Even though Bihar’s Leader of the Opposition Tejashwi Yadav as well as former CM and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partner Jitan Ram Manjhi have come out in his support and condemned the manner in which late Ram Vilas Paswan’s belongings were thrown out of the Lutyens’ Delhi bungalow he had occupied for three decades, Chirag has not hinted at his plans for 2025.
2020 assembly polls & aftermath
In the run-up to the 2020 Bihar assembly polls, the LJP quit the BJP-led NDA alliance after Chirag reportedly rejected an offer to contst 20 seats.
The LJP then decided to contest all 122 seats (out of a total 243) on which Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) fielded its candidates as an NDA partner in the 2020 polls.
During the elections, several senior BJP leaders quit the party and contested the polls on LJP tickets. Chirag’s ‘PM Modi’s Hanuman’ remark had angered the JD(U), and this led to speculation that the junior Paswan was BJP’s ‘plan B’.
Though PM Modi did not utter a word against Chirag during campaigning, state leaders like Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi and BJP’s Bihar unit chief Sanjay Jaiswal held a press conference claiming that Chirag Paswan was creating confusion among the voters and LJP was not a part of the NDA in Bihar.
Chirag’s party won only one seat in the assembly polls, but got 5.5 per cent of the votes and ensured that JD(U) candidates lost in more than 40 assembly seats, reducing Nitish Kumar’s party to ‘junior partner’ status within the NDA, with just 43 seats.
Chirag Paswan paid a heavy price for his decision. The JD(U) engineered defections from his party, taking away its sole MLA in April 2021. Meanwhile, Chirag was denied the Rajya Sabha seat vacated due to his father’s death, which Chirag wanted for his mother Reena Paswan.
Another massive setback came in October 2021, when the LJP split and Chirag’s uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras took five Lok Sabha MPs, leaving his nephew isolated.
Paras took oath as a Union cabinet minister in April 2021.
On 30 March, Chirag was delivered a bitter blow when housing ministry officials entered 12, Janpath — which had been the official bungalow of Ram Vilas Paswan for over three decades — and threw out his belongings.
“I was saddened by the manner in which portraits of my late father and B.R. Ambedkar were thrown out and trampled. Just two days earlier, I was called to a top BJP minister’s house. I was assured that there was no problem in my continuing to stay in the bungalow. I know that I am not entitled to the bungalow, I would have vacated it if I had not been given the assurance,” Chirag told the Print.
He blamed CM Nitish Kumar and his uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras for “creating pressure” on the Centre to get the bungalow vacated.
“My uncle should be ashamed that portraits of his brother, whom he called his god, were trampled on by the government in which he is a minister,” Chirag remarked.
Paras dismissed Chirag’s allegation. “Whatever is happening is because he betrayed the alliance my brother was a part of. Had he remained in the alliance, he would have faced no problem. As far as the bungalow is concerned, he got six notices and lost in the Delhi High Court. He should have vacated the bungalow and taken away his belongings, and not left the portraits of my brother to be trampled,” Paras told ThePrint.
Keeping cards close to chest
The LJP chief has made no indication of what his strategy will be for the 2025 state assembly elections. “Chirag is waiting for the election year to take a final call,” a party leader who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint.
The bypolls for two assembly seats last year saw his candidates lose their deposits, but he still had more votes than the Congress candidates. “It is perceived that a chunk of Paswan votes would go with Chirag just as Yadav votes go to Tejashwi,” a senior BJP leader told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)