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

Pashupati Kumar Paras, 68, appeared to come into his own Monday as he took over the post of LJP parliamentary party leader from nephew Chirag Paswan, also a party MP.

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Patna: Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Pashupati Kumar Paras has been in politics since 1977. He has been an MLA, a state minister, an MP and an MLC, but he has largely been known as “Ram Vilas ka bhai”. He is the younger brother of late Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan.

However, the 68-year-old leader of the LJP in the Lok Sabha appeared to come into his own Monday as he took over the post of LJP parliamentary party leader from nephew Chirag Paswan, also a party MP, with the support of the outfit’s remaining four parliamentarians.

Long seen as a reluctant, low-profile politician, who had neither his brother’s charisma nor mass appeal, Paras is now seen by a section of fellow LJP leaders as the antidote to the “blunder” Chirag committed by going against Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the 2020 assembly election and cutting into the NDA’s victory margin.

Through the election campaign, Chirag went all out criticising Nitish, whose Janata Dal (United) is a member of the NDA, even as he reiterated his support to the BJP. He fielded candidates against the JD(U) and led his party out of the NDA in Bihar. Eventually, his party only won one seat of the 143 contested, but he is believed to have cut into the NDA’s vote share with his campaign.

“Paras ji is a seasoned politician who knows the politics in Bihar. Chirag Paswan ignored all senior politicians. Fighting polls against NDA candidates in the assembly polls and going against Nitish Kumar was wrong,” said Mehmood Ali Qaiser, LJP MP from Khagaria.

“Politics is done on the basis of ground realities and not personal likes and dislikes. Ram Vilas ji used to have his feet firmly on the ground. Paras ji will carry on the political legacy of Ram Vilas ji,” he added. 

Vaishali MP Veena Devi insisted the shift in party leadership wasn’t a split.

“We have changed the leader and picked Paras ji instead of Chirag Paswan because the party needs a politically mature leader who knows what is beneficial for the party,” she said. “Chirag Paswan failed to meet the expectations of leaders and workers.”

Also Read: Modi’s ‘Hanuman’, Chirag Paswan, will find no place in his government

Brother’s point person in Bihar

Paras, according to his profile on the Lok Sabha website, was born on 12 July 1952, six years after his brother, in Khagaria. He holds a B.Ed degree as well as a BA (Hons) in Political Science. In the current Lok Sabha, he represents Hajipur, a constituency reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs).

When his brother was alive, Paras served as his point person in Bihar as Paswan pursued his own interest in Delhi politics. The latter depended on Paras to run his party, and keep contact with his MPs and MLAs. He also handled the funds provided to him to run the party.

The fact that his own politics centred around his brother is something Paras openly acknowledges.

When the political atmosphere got charged up after the fodder scam in 1996, a section of the erstwhile Janata Dal demanded Lalu Prasad’s removal. While Lalu subsequently sacked five of his ministers, he did not fire Paras despite knowing that Ram Vilas Paswan was fanning dissent among Janata Dal MLAs. 

This was seen as a peace signal to Paswan. However, Paras tendered his resignation from the ministry. “I cannot continue in the ministry and have even returned my official car,” he had told this reporter then, insisting that he had not consulted his elder brother. No one believed him and it was acknowledged that Ram Vilas Paswan had rejected Lalu’s gesture for peace. 

However, it was not that Paras did not have his own views. After the February 2005 assembly elections threw up a hung house, the LJP with its 27 MLAs was seen to hold the key to government formation. 

Paras is believed to have privately held the view that the party should back Nitish and form a government in Bihar. “But Ram Vilas ji was not opening his cards and when the NDA attempted to break away LJP MLAs, Paras got a chartered plane and flew his remaining 16 MLAs to Delhi. Despite having strong anti-Lalu views, Paras ji reached out to Lalu whenever his brother wanted,” said a former LJP MLA.

The situation finally resulted in the state going through another election within the same year.

Through the years, Paras also served as a gateway to the state government for Paswan. If Paswan needed a favour from the state government, it was Paras who called Nitish Kumar. He got on well with Nitish even when he and Paswan were on opposite sides. 

Apart from this, however, he is described as a laidback politician. When Paswan asked him to contest from his traditional seat Hajipur in 2019, Paras filed the nomination papers, but “reluctantly”. 

“I had to drag Paras every day from his bed in his house in Patna. We would reach Hajipur by noon. Paras used to hold one meeting and spend some time in the party office. He used to return to Patna by evening every day,” said a former JD(U) minister.

“On the other hand, the RJD candidate was camping there. I told Nitish ji that if we win Hajipur, we will win all 40 seats in Bihar,” the leader added.

‘Alone after brother’s death’

After the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, as Chirag Paswan took over the party and his brother’s health continued to deteriorate, Paras was side-tracked and even kept in the dark about the LJP’s decisions. 

Calls from Ram Vilas Paswan stopped and so did the funds.

When Chirag decided to field candidates against the JD(U), Paras made his resentment known by declaring that he did not know anything about it. 

Chirag, it is said, never talked to his uncle, much less allowed him to run the state unit of the party. Paras was removed as state party chief last year. 

Since Paswan’s death, Chirag and Paras have come across each other once, during the late LJP chief’s cremation.

As he took over the post of parliamentary party leader, however, Paras insisted Chirag was welcome to stay in the LJP.

“After my brother’s death, I felt alone. After the death of my brother, we had hoped that we would be a part of the NDA. But it did not happen and the party was going to pieces and there was no one to listen to the workers,” Paras told reporters Monday.

“I have taken the step to save the party. As long as I am alive, the LJP will exist.” 

Paras said Chirag was welcome to remain in the party, adding that the LJP will continue to be part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

Also Read: Nitish Kumar evens score with Chirag Paswan ouster as LJP Parliamentary party leader 


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