New Delhi: The tussle over the bungalow at 12, Janpath in Lutyens’ Delhi, where late Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Ram Vilas Paswan spent three decades of his life, and which also served as LJP’s office, has turned tricky for the ruling BJP.
Paswan’s son Chirag, who is fighting his uncle to inherit the political legacy of his father, has been living at this address for the last 30 years with his mother and entire family.
But with the Narendra Modi government’s order to the Paswan family to vacate the bungalow, the battle took a turn last week when LJP supporters put up a bust of Paswan Sr inside the bungalow, complicating the issue for the BJP.
The deadline to vacate the bungalow was in October, but it has been extended for a few months, according to sources.
According to BJP sources, the government is now hoping to get the bungalow vacated — allotted to Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw last year after Paswan’s demise — while looking to avoid the wrath of Dalits ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections next year. The late LJP chief had considerable influence over the community.
The Ministry of Urban Development has allotted another house — 23, North Avenue — to Chirag as he is an MP from Jamui in Bihar. While he had sought an extension to vacate the Janpath bungalow, the installation of the bust has made the issue political.
The BJP is looking at this with suspicion, said sources, as Chirag is all set to visit Shaheed Abdul Hamid’s village in Ghazipur to announce his wish to contest the UP elections, after his uncle was included in the Union government in July, much to his shock.
Chirag is currently on a campaign, Jan Aashiwad Yatra, in Bihar. He is also planning to commemorate his father’s barsi on 12 September in Patna, followed by a grand event at his paternal village three days later, for which he has extended an invitation to everyone — from the PM to the CM, said LJP leaders.
Fully aware about the importance of Dalit votes in UP elections, and in Bihar, the BJP is contemplating if it should allow Chirag to stay in the bungalow until the elections are over, or to follow the due process and get the bungalow vacated.
There has also been a hushed demand from LJP to convert the bungalow into a memorial. Another NDA member in Bihar, Jitan Ram Manjhi of Hindustani Awam Morcha, has extended support to this demand.
However, government sources insist that the bungalow will not be turned into a memorial, to keep in line with a Supreme Court ruling.
‘Chirag will take the bust with him’
There are, however, conflicting messages from within the LJP on the whole issue.
Sources close to Chirag have denied that the ex-LJP chief has any problem in vacating the Janpath house, adding that he will take the bust whenever he moves.
“Chirag Paswan has no issue with vacating this bungalow. The only thing which is yet to be decided is when he will relocate from here. As and when he shifts from here, he will carry this bust with himself,” said an aide to Chirag who didn’t wish to be named.
“It has been a demand by the supporters that the place where this big Dalit icon Ram Vilas Paswan, who was greatly loved even by PM Modi, has stayed for such a long period of time, should be declared a memorial. However, the party has officially not presented any such demand,” the aide said.
“Many of his supporters come here on a daily basis. If someone has installed an idol, then how can we bring it down? It is only an idol of Ram Vilas Paswan ji who is revered by crores of Dalits. What objection can anyone have to that?” LJP spokesperson Ashraf Ansari said.
Why BJP is suspicious
According to sources in BJP, installing an idol just before vacating the bungalow is part of a larger purpose, and Chirag could try and turn it into a political issue amid his fight with his uncle to claim his father’s legacy.
The BJP leadership would not like to get embroiled in it, especially as assembly elections are due in Uttar Pradesh, where BJP is fighting hard to save its stronghold in eastern UP with the help of non-Jatav Dalits.
Moreover, the party leadership is also worried that if the fight over this bungalow escalates, then Chirag, who has already been invited by Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Tejashwi Yadav to join hands, might shift to Bihar’s Grand Alliance.
The BJP wouldn’t like a broader alliance comprising RJD, LJP and HAM to create new troubles for the BJP-Janata Dal (United) alliance in Bihar.
LJP’s moves in UP
Chirag, who is yet to recover from the political shock of the inclusion of his uncle-turned-nemesis Pashupati Paras in the Union Cabinet by the BJP, is considering the possibility of entering the UP elections, said LJP leaders on condition of anonymity.
On Friday, Chirag is going to visit Dhampur village in Ghazipur district, which is the birthplace of Shaheed Abdul Hamid, who won the Param Vir Chakra for his actions during the India-China 1965 war. The move comes as LJP seeks to explore a possibility of wider Dalit-Muslim alliance in UP, with the help of sympathy factor for his father. It thus plans to trounce the BJP in Dalit fortresses in the state.
An LJP leader in the Chirag faction told ThePrint that calls are coming from many places including Ballia and Ghazipur for holding Chirag’s rallies.
So far, Paswan was busy with the Jan Aashirwad Yatra. However, now the UP unit of LJP has demanded to contest elections there. As the chairman of the party’s parliamentary board, only Chirag can decide about the number of seats to be contested.
BJP on high alert, but no reprieve on bungalow
Moreover, the LJP is set to hold the barsi (death anniversary), according to the rituals of Hindu Sanatan Dharma, in Patna on 12 September. There are plans to commemorate the death anniversary on a grand scale later in Shaharbani in Bihar’s Khagaria district, said LJP sources.
There is also a plan to observe the first death anniversary in October in UP. The next phase of the Jan Aashirwad Yatra will be held then.
Along with the installation of the bust, these events are keeping the BJP leadership on high alert as it is linking these with the demands to convert the bungalow into a memorial.
According to BJP leaders, LJP wants to keep organising such events on one pretext or the other just to garner some sympathy. At such times, BJP will take any step after taking all the care and consideration.
However, in similar circumstances, no reprieve was given to vacate ex-PM Chaudhary Charan Singh’s bungalow at 12, Tughlaq Road in 2014. The government had even resorted to cutting power and water supply to the house, which was occupied by Singh’s son and senior Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh.
Sources said ex-PM Chandrashekhar’s bungalow at 3, South Avenue was also similarly vacated by the government. Later, his son Neeraj Shekhar joined the BJP.
According to the government, it is only following the directions of the Supreme Court which has barred conversion of government residences in the Lutyens’ Zone into memorials. Babu Jagjivan Ram National Foundation is the only exception to this rule.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)