Patna: Hours after Pashupati Kumar Paras ousted his nephew Chirag Paswan, son of late Ram Vilas Paswan, as the Lok Janshakti Party’s (LJP’s) Parliamentary party leader Monday, the Janata Dal (United) national president R.C.P. Singh gave it away.
“What happened in LJP is what happens when one confronts Nitish Kumar,” Singh told reporters in Patna.
Ahead of the assembly elections in Bihar in October last year, Chirag Paswan had taken it upon himself to politically destroy Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
The young LJP leader, who declared himself as PM Modi’s “Hanuman”, fielded candidates in all the seats that the Janata Dal (United) contested, in what was seen as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s masterstroke.
The idea was to bring the JD(U)’s tally down in the Assembly, which would make the BJP the ‘big brother’ in the alliance.
Chirag ended up with just one seat but he achieved the primary objective — to reduce the JD(U)’s strength. The JD(U) won just 43 of the 243 seats in the state.
The LJP had hurt the JD(U)’s prospects in at least 40 seats.
Monday’s development appears to be the JD(U)’s payback. In Pashupati Kumar Paras, the ruling party has an LJP leader who sees Nitish as a “vikas purush” rather than a rival.
How JD(U) planned the coup
According to sources in the JD(U), Bihar Chief Minister and party leader Nitish Kumar had deputed his trusted aide and JD(U) MP Lallan Singh to work on Pashupati Kumar Paras and some other LJP leaders.
But in the run-up to the assembly polls, LJP founder Ram Vilas Paswan died on 8 October and Singh failed to convince Paras and Prince Raj Paswan, Chirag Paswan’s cousin and an LJP MP, to cross over.
The efforts were renewed in May this year, according to JD(U) sources. Sources said Lallan Singh met Paras for three days last month, which enabled the five LJP MPs to sit and draft the letter to the Lok Sabha Speaker, announcing Paras as the Parliamentary party leader.
A source, who was one of the troubleshooters, said Lallan Singh turned to Bihar Deputy Speaker and JD(U) leader Maheshwar Hazari, who is Paras’ cousin, to bring on board Khagaria MP Mehboob Ali Kaiser. Lallan also got Dinesh Singh, a former JD(U) MLC, to convince his wife and LJP MP Veena Singh.
The source said Lallan also got the don-turned-politician Surajbhan Singh to speak to his brother, the Nawada LJP MP Chandan Singh, and make him part of the rebels.
“Once the letter went to the Speaker, it was time to negotiate,” the source said.
Turmoil in the family
Pashupati Kumar Paras has been always considered the unambitious younger brother of Ram Vilas Paswan.
He first won as an MLA from Alauli, the Paswans’ ancestral home, in 1977. He has held the seat for seven times. After he lost the 2015 assembly elections from Alauli, he contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from Hajipur, his brother’s traditional seat, and won.
Paras had served as a minister in the Lalu Prasad government of the 1990s before his brother and Lalu parted ways in 1997.
He was the brother that Ram Vilas Paswan relied on the most. “Bhaiya is my politics,” Paras once told this correspondent. The younger Paswan was also the intermediary between LJP leaders and Ram Vilas Paswan.
All that, however, changed with Ram Vilas Paswan’s death and Chirag’s elevation as LJP chief. His nephew expelled LJP leaders and took major decisions without consulting his uncle.
When Chirag Paswan went all out against Nitish Kumar, Paras had remained silent. When Chirag decided to contest 143 seats, even against JD(U) candidates, Paras had said that he did not know of any such decision and declared himself ill.
After the death of his elder brother, Paras was even threatened with expulsion because he praised his other nephew and Samastipur MP Prince Raj.
“After my brother’s death, I felt alone. After the death of my brother we had hoped that we would be a part of 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).
Political options for Chirag
Until the 2020 election results, Chirag was considered one of the most promising young leaders in Bihar, even being compared to the RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav.
Today, while Tejashwi has gained prominence, especially after the RJD’s good showing in the Bihar elections, Chirag finds himself at the political crossroads.
The LJP chief is partly to blame. Since taking over in October last year, he has remained outside Bihar and has not been able to restructure his party, while ignoring MPs and his uncle Paras.
The grapevine in Bihar’s political circles, however, is that he still has the better chances of retaining his father’s legacy, as compared to either Paras or his cousin Prince Raj, but that his future will depend on what the BJP decides for him.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)