Patna: Days after the death of Union cabinet minister and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) patron Ram Vilas Paswan, there are calls from leaders affiliated to the party for the inclusion of his son and LJP chief Chirag Paswan in the Narendra Modi cabinet.
The leaders are also seeking Ram Vilas Paswan’s Rajya Sabha seat for his widow, Reena Paswan.
“We are going to make a demand for the inclusion of Chirag Paswan in the Union cabinet. We will also be demanding the Rajya Sabha seat for his mother Reena Paswan,” said Lallan Chandravanshi, a spokesperson for Dalit Sena, an LJP-affiliated outfit created by Ram Vilas Paswan for carrying out programmes related to the Scheduled Castes.
Dalit Sena is led by Paswan’s nephew Prince Raj, who was handed the charge last year after the death of his father Ram Chandra Paswan.
Chandravanshi said Chirag, the Lok Sabha MP from Jamui, is the natural choice as he is the inheritor of Paswan’s legacy. “We are part of NDA at the Centre and it will be for the BJP to take the call,” he said.
However, BJP spokesperson Prem Ranjan Patel highlighted that LJP is not part of the NDA in Bihar.
“It is the PM’s prerogative to make anyone a member of his cabinet. But LJP is not a member of the NDA in Bihar. In Rajya Sabha polls, all the allies play an important role in deciding the names of candidates and JD(U) is an important ally of the BJP,” said Patel.
While the LJP is part of NDA at the Centre, it has decided to go up against JD(U), an NDA ally in the state, in the assembly polls. The NDA is fighting the elections with Nitish Kumar as its chief ministerial face. This rebellion by Chirag has created the possibility of a BJP-LJP government in a post-poll scenario.
“Ram Vilas ji‘s success in politics was largely because he had no enemies even among his political rivals. I have serious doubts if Chirag Paswan can come up to that level,” Patel added.
Paswan senior had suggested Chirag’s name last year
It was said that after the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)’s return to power last year, Paswan had suggested the inclusion of Chirag in the cabinet instead of himself. However, the BJP shot down the idea, stressing that it wanted a Dalit face of Paswan’s stature.
Paswan was the sole LJP leader in the NDA cabinet. Last year, he was given a Rajya Sabha seat as he didn’t want to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Hajipur due to health issues. The seat came from BJP’s quota in Bihar, and was previously held by Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
However, this created a controversy over questions of quota. While CM Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) claimed that the seat came from its quota of the NDA, Chirag wrote a letter to the BJP president that Kumar had insulted his father by making such a claim.
Fight now in assembly elections
The fight between Chirag and the JD(U) is now set to play out in this month’s assembly elections as well.
“As far as elections in Bihar are concerned, LJP intends to go ahead with the plan of contesting 143 seats – all the seats where JD(U) and HAM are contesting,” said Chandravanshi.
However, with just six days left for the filing of nomination papers for the second phase of Bihar assembly elections, in which 94 constituencies will vote, the LJP is yet to decide its candidates.
According to LJP sources, Chirag and his family members were busy in the cremation of Ram Vilas Paswan, whose body was brought to Patna late Friday.
“Within a couple of days the parliamentary board of the party will sit and decide the candidates for the second phase,” said an LJP leader, stressing that the family was still mourning the loss.
Paswan’s cremation at Digha Ghat in Patna Saturday was a mega affair. Even CM Nitish, who has been at loggerheads with Chirag for the last one year, made a rare appearance at the ghat.
With the inter-party rivalry seeming like it’s going to impact the assembly elections, the CM and his cohorts were hoping that Chirag would tone down his attack on JD(U) after his father’s death. JD(U) sources say they are worried over the LJP’s first list, which has a large number of upper caste candidates.
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