Patna: Jamui MP Chirag Paswan is eyeing a major comeback in Bihar after the recent break-up in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) camp, where a section of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) acknowledge that a reunited Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) will be beneficial in the run up to the general and state elections.
In a changed strategy, Chirag even hit out at Narendra Modi saying that the prime minister has ‘no vision for Bihar’ even as it had the luxury of a double engine government for two years.
“Modi has no vision for Bihar as during the two-year tenure of double engine government in Bihar. They not only failed to implement their agenda, but also made many compromises for Nitish. The CM dictated terms, but ditched (the BJP) at the last moment,” Chirag told ThePrint
The LJP (Ramvilas) faction chief said that he was in no hurry to draw the alliance contours for 2024 “as election is far away and a decision of alliance will be taken only at the time of election”.
Since the Lok Sabha election is two years away, Chirag claimed his priority is to strengthen the party’s base at the ground so that a revitalised LJP can seek more seats from its senior ally, the BJP. He also denied that he had any plan to join the BJP or to become its Paswan face.
With the exit of his bete noire Nitish Kumar from the NDA camp, the BJP is faced with the prospect of scouting for new allies in one of the major Hindi heartland states. Another spin-off of the NDA split is that the BJP may have to nudge Chirag and his beleaguered uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras to join hands together. Paras is facing a rebellion in his party.
A senior leader of the Janata Dal (United) confirmed to ThePrint that three LJP MPs — Kaiser Ali, Veena Singh and Chandan Singh — were in touch with the JD(U) leadership to switch loyalties. If this crossover happens, Paras will have only two MPs including him and son.
A weakened Paras means a blessing for Chirag as he can bank on his father Ram Vilas Paswan’s legacy to earn the sympathy of his community.
Similarly, a BJP leader conceded that the leadership is back to the drawing board for working on new combinations. “BJP will need a clutch of smaller parties to stitch an alliance to fight a more formidable Mahagathbandhan in 2024 and 2025 if we are to win Bihar,” the leader said.
The Mahagathbandhan, at least on paper, is on solid ground with the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s support base of the Muslim-Yadav combine and Nitish’s popularity among the Extremely Backward Classes.
Sources told ThePrint that before the Lok Sabha election, the BJP may force Chirag and Paras to reunite to prevent any split in Paswan votes.
Sensing his new opportunity where his bargaining power can increase, Chirag reiterated that he was in “no hurry” for political realignment. “I am not in a hurry to go for any alliance. …I will continue to work to expand the base at ground level. My priority is to strengthen the organisation at ground before the poll. I am working for Bihar first. When the time comes, I will consult my people for guidance,” he told ThePrint.
To a question on why he was not considering joining the BJP and to become its Paswan face, Chirag said his larger agenda was to speak on behalf of the people of Bihar.
“Why should I become the leader of only one caste? I am talking about 13 crore people. First, I need to understand the BJP’s vision for Bihar to think about any alliance… We had advised the BJP in 2017 that Nitish is not a faithful ally, that he will deceive again but the BJP went ahead with the alliance with Nitishji for the 2020 assembly election,” he told ThePrint.
The BJP had turned down Chirag’s request that his mother Reena Paswan be given the Rajya Sabha seat vacated due to his father’s death.
“I advised the BJP to implement its own agenda and not to give too much leverage to Nitish. But they did not listen. I have complaints against the BJP. In the present circumstance, till the time I acquire confidence about their Bihar agenda, I am not excited about any alliance… I will consider aligning with anyone who gives priority to my agenda of ‘Bihar first, Bihari first’,” he said, adding that his focus will be to restore the pride of Bihar.
All-out attack against Nitish
Chirag has no love lost for Nitish whom he blames for inciting his uncle Paras to engineer the split in the LJP.
“What has changed in Bihar in the last eight years? In 2015, Nitish announced seven nishchays (commitments ) for Bihar. The promise was repeated in 2017, 2020 and 2022. I am asking what changes have happened in the last eight years? He is the biggest liar chief minister of India…,” he told ThePrint.
“My younger brother Tejashwi Yadav claimed that he will sign an affidavit that he will not join hands with Nitish Kumar again, but he has now become the deputy chief minister again,” Chirag added.
On its part, the BJP is showing signs of sending feelers to the Jamui MP. “Since Nitish has changed sides, we have no political compulsion to maintain a safe distance from Chirag. The BJP has to stop the split of Paswan votes in Lok Sabha and assembly elections,” another BJP leader said. “We know that there is an ego problem on both sides but the BJP will exercise its influence at the right time to make both factions fight as a united group.”
Paras will find it difficult to save even his position of a union minister if the three MPs leave his party, the BJP leader said “In that circumstances, the BJP will have to use its influence to tell him to patch up with Chirag. It will be good for all stakeholders in Bihar.”
Bihar BJP general secretary Sanjeev Chaurasia agreed that it would be better if both factions of the LJP unite. “It will be in the interest of the party that both factions unite and fight the election. Efforts will be initiated earliest to unite them but the call will be made by Amit Shah ji,” he told ThePrint.
(Edited by Tony Rai)