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Why LJP’s decision to go it alone in Bihar will prove a tall order for Chirag Paswan

In the last assembly elections, the LJP won just two of the 42 seats it contested while many believe that Chirag himself is still a novice in politics.

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Patna: A political heavyweight father who may be unable to campaign, a party with no real known faces and a chief who many believe is still a novice in politics.

A number of factors hamper the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Chirag Paswan’s decision to go it solo in the Bihar assembly elections, set to begin on 28 October.

Chirag announced Sunday that the LJP will not contest the elections under the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) but made it clear that the party will not field candidates against the BJP.   

The state’s political circles, however, feel that it will be a tall order for the LJP to make a mark in these elections.

For one, there is serious doubt if Chirag’s father, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, the real face of the party, will be able to campaign.

Even the LJP admits he will not campaign. “Campaigning by Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan can be ruled out. He has had a heart operation and there is a possibility that another heart operation will be done after three weeks,” LJP spokesperson Ashraf Ansari told The Print. He added that the bulk of the campaigning will be carried out by Chirag and his cousin, the Samastipur MP Prince Raj Paswan.

Ansari also reiterated the party’s strategy. “According to the decision of our parliamentary board, we will not field candidates against the BJP,” he said. “But we will be fielding our candidates against the JD(U) and even the HAM (Jitan Ram Manjhi-led Hindustani Awam Morcha).”

Chirag’s letter

Chirag Paswan Monday appealed to voters in Bihar not to cast a single vote for the JD(U), to avoid the neglect they have faced since Nitish came to power. He insisted the next government in Bihar will be a BJP-LJP government, and clarified that his party has ideological differences with the JD(U) on various issues, including Nitish’s pet ‘saat nishchay‘ (seven decisions) programme.

In a two-page letter, Chirag said in Bihar, neither officers nor the CM are answerable, and no one is solving the people’s problems.

“This is a decisive moment for us; it is a question of 12 crore Bihari people. We have no time to lose; even one vote cast in favour of JD(U) will compel your child to migrate to another state… The new government will be a BJP-LJP government under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi,” he wrote.

“You have always supported my father, and he always told me never to give up but to fight for the cause. This is not my battle; it’s the battle for Bihar, for its lost glory and lost identity. I hope you will support me like you have supported my father,” Chirag continued.

“If I wanted to have an easier path, I would have joined the ‘mahagathbandhan’. But I have chosen the difficult path to give Bihar its due and bring back lost glory. We had many expectations from the current chief minister but he has not fared well. Today, it is a matter for concern for me that the Bihar CM’s idea of development and benefits have not reached the (people on the ground),” he said.

Posters have already begun cropping up in Patna highlighting the LJP’s moves. “BJP se koyee bair nahi, Nitish ka khair nahi (We have no enmity with the BJP but we are going to teach Nitish Kumar a lesson).”

All of this, however, has the JD(U) suspicious that Chirag may have the tacit support of the top BJP leadership.

“We suspect that the BJP will have a pan-Bihar existence through the LJP by getting its (BJP) leaders to contest the seats that the JD(U) is contesting,” said a JD(U) MLA contesting from Rohtas district. “We will wait until 7 October by which time we will know the LJP candidates.”

JD(U) spokesperson K.C. Tyagi insisted that its alliance with the BJP was solid.

“The BJP-JD(U) alliance is solid, and LJP was never part of the alliance with JD(U). Their decision will not impact the alliance’s fortunes. It’s only Chirag high aspiration, nothing else,” Tyagi said.

However, another JD(U) spokesperson Aslam Azad said the LJP must be removed from the NDA immediately.

Also read: Hathras, Balrampur are preventable. This is what we found in our study of UP and Bihar teens

‘Chirag a novice’

Old timers also find it hard to believe that Chirag Paswan has the mettle to enhance the party’s prospects in these elections, something even Tyagi mentioned to ThePrint.

“This shows his political immaturity; may be he is aspiring for too much in a short time,” Tyagi said.

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Ranjan Prasad Yadav added: “While I was with Ram Vilas Paswan, Chirag showed no interest in politics. He was engrossed in becoming a Bollywood hero. It was after his film bombed in the box office that he was pushed into politics.”

Yadav was the chairman of the LJP parliamentary board until 2008.

A senior BJP leader recalled that Chirag was no crowd puller even during the 2015 assembly elections, when he held rallies for the NDA. “Chirag’s crowds would be between 500 to 1,000. Even his oratory skills are ordinary. Tejashwi Yadav is much better,” said the senior BJP leader not wanting to be identified.

The current LJP is also not the party of Chirag’s father.

Despite being family-run, the LJP had, in 2005, leaders such as the late Ramashray Prasad Singh and Narendra Singh apart from Ranjan Prasad Yadav. They were faces Bihar voters were familiar with.

Today Chirag’s LJP has no familiar faces. Even Chirag’s uncle, the Hajipur MP Pashupati Kumar Paras, skipped the parliamentary board meeting Sunday, citing illness.

A party on the wane

Ram Vilas Paswan’s emergence as a political force in Bihar is because he is perceived to be the leader of the Paswan section of Dalits who constitute six per cent of the state’s population.

Right from 1999, when he contested with the NDA in Lok Sabha polls, before frequently switching sides, Paswan has seen himself as the kingmaker of Bihar.

The LJP’s zenith came in the 2005 assembly elections in February, when it won 29 seats in the 243-member House, in a hung assembly.

Since then, however, it has been downhill for the party in Bihar. The party won just 13 seats in the 2005 November polls, an election prompted by the fractured mandate earlier in the year, and that reduced to a mere three in the 2010 polls, when the party had allied with the RJD.

In the 2015 assembly elections, the LJP won just two of the 42 seats it contested in. It was then part of the NDA.

This time around, the LJP is expected to contest in 143 seats but there are doubts even within the party on how it will fare with Chirag at the helm.

Party leaders say that Chirag only sporadically visits his own Lok Sabha constituency of Jamui, from where he is the MP since 2014, and spends much of his time in Delhi.

“He can be spotted in Khan Market moving around with failed Bollywood actors,” said a LJP leader who did not want to be identified.

Not everyone, however, thinks so. Former Bihar minister Narendra Singh, who was with the LJP until 2006, believes that Chirag is actually playing a shrewd game. 

Chirag Paswan is posturing and setting himself up for the 2025 assembly polls, when all of these Bihar leaders from the time of the J.P. (Jayaprakash Narayan) agitation will be too old. With or without the BJP, it is a legitimate thing to do,” Singh told ThePrint. “Of course it is not without its risks.”    

Also read: At least 3 third fronts in Bihar, but NDA & Grand Alliance say this is only going to help them


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  2. Most of the party chiefs and decision makers are the sons of the founding leaders. Starting it is better that they test the waters and shape up or ship out.

  3. The conventional wisdom seems to be that all this is being orchestrated to give CM Nitish Kumar a nasty shock, perhaps eject him after the election. Idle to believe he would simply roll over, accept a Raj Bhavan. He might have some flips and flops in reserve himself.

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