BIHAR: PASWAN JR COMES OF AGE

Chi­rag Paswan has big shoes to fill as he takes over the reins of the LJP in Bihar

India Today - - STATES - By Amitabh Sri­vas­tava

On Septem­ber 24, when Union min­is­ter and Lok Jan­shakti Party (LJP) chief Ram Vi­las Paswan made son Chi­rag Paswan, 36, party in-charge of home base Bihar (the party won all six Lok Sabha seats it con­tested in 2019), the de­ci­sion seemed par for the course. A Dalit dy­nast pick­ing his only son to head his party elicited lit­tle sur­prise. But those in the know say there is more to it than meets the eye.

Over the years, Paswan Sr has al­ways had an un­canny abil­ity to emerge on the win­ning side, a tal­ent which earned him a place in the cab­i­net of six prime min­is­ters. But even he at­tributes his po­lit­i­cal re­vival in 2014 and suc­cesses since to Chi­rag’s “fore­sight”. He says it was Chi­rag who per­suaded him to move from the UPA to

the NDA camp on the eve of the 2014 gen­eral elec­tion. Many had thought the LJP was a spent force by then, hav­ing failed to win a sin­gle Lok Sabha seat in 2009 and do­ing dis­mally in the 2010 Bihar assem­bly elec­tion (the party won just three seats). Chi­rag’s as­sess­ment proved de­ci­sive for the LJP. The party won six out of seven Lok Sabha seats it con­tested in 2014 and all six in this year’s gen­eral elec­tion.

The de­ci­sion to let Chi­rag take over the party’s state unit also comes at a cru­cial junc­ture as Bihar is set to wit­ness assem­bly polls next year. Al­ready, the ju­nior Paswan has shown that he is not one to dither over tough de­ci­sions. At a time when a hand­ful of BJP lead­ers have come out in open re­volt against ally and JD(U) chief Ni­tish Ku­mar, who heads the NDA gov­ern­ment in Bihar, the LJP has come out in his sup­port, as­sert­ing that Ni­tish “is and will re­main the NDA face in Bihar”.

“There is no al­ter­na­tive to Ni­tish Ku­mar in Bihar. The LJP ac­cepts him as NDA leader in the state,” Chi­rag has said. The LJP’s sup­port is cru­cial in more than one way. Chi­rag has re­cip­ro­cated Ni­tish’s ges­ture of back­ing Paswan Sr for a Ra­jya Sabha seat. Go­ing by the Lok Sabha poll re­sults, the JD(U) and LJP to­gether have a sig­nif­i­cant 30 per cent vote share, a good enough rea­son for the BJP to not up­set the ap­ple­cart.

So, is Chi­rag ready to take over the party from his fa­ther? Wax­ing elo­quent, Chi­rag likened the fa­ther­son re­la­tion­ship to the one be­tween the sun and the moon: “He will al­ways be the source of my en­ergy and ex­is­tence.” The LJP is plan­ning a rally in the state on Novem­ber 28, its foun­da­tion day, to cel­e­brate Chi­rag’s anoint­ment.

For decades, Paswan Sr, with his con­stant 6.5 per cent vote bank, has re­mained the best known Dalit face in Bihar, a state where the com­mu­nity has size­able num­bers. Chi­rag may be tak­ing over of­fi­cially, but his job won’t be easy. His fa­ther leaves a size­able le­gacy, the young Dalit leader will have to labour to pre­serve that. ■

LOOK­ING AHEAD Chi­rag Paswan at a press meet in Delhi

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