The BJP has bowled a googly in Bihar by inducting Pashupati Kumar Paras, the renegade uncle of young Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) politician Chirag Paswan, during the reshuffle announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday (July 7).
While PM Modi’s decision to include Paras in his team appears to be a favour returned for his help in breaking the LJP and isolating Chirag, it also has a larger message for alliance partner Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
By bringing in Paras Paswan, the brother of late Ramvilas Paswan, into the Union ministry, the BJP has made it clear that nobody can stop the party from ruthlessly pursuing its goal of dominating all possible political spaces – irrespective of the state, or its internal dynamics.
In the last Assembly election in 2020, Chirag Paswan played an intriguing role by going it alone. Though his father, the late Ramvilas Paswan, was a BJP ally and a union minister in the Modi ministry, Chirag contested 135 seats on his own without formally breaking ties with the BJP.
During campaigning, Chirag made it clear that the party he inherited from his father, the LJP (Lok Janshakti Party), would not work against the BJP but contest only against Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United).
It was widely believed that Chirag was acting on behalf of the BJP to cut Nitish to size. While the BJP and JD(U) fought as allies, the saffron party never once reprimanded Chirag for fighting against Nitish. This, despite the fact that JD(U) did register its protest with the BJP against Chirag.
Chirag may not have realised it, but the BJP was clearly using him to settle scores with Nitish and cut him to size. For, Nitish despite being a BJP ally, has always had a blow hot blow cold relationship with the BJP. Prior to the 2015 Bihar elections, Nitish broke away from the BJP citing differences with Modi and formed an alliance with the Congress and Laloo Prasad Yadav’s RJD. Nitish’s move turned out to be a winning one as he returned as the CM of Bihar.
A couple of years later, in 2017, possibly under pressure from the BJP, Nitish broke away from the Congress-RJD alliance and formed a government with the BJP. Since then, the relationship between the two (Modi and Kumar) has been tepid though both continue to be in an alliance.
For the BJP, it was clear that Nitish was not a pushover. Ramvilas Paswan died during the run up to Bihar elections in 2020. The saffron party used the opportunity to work out a covert deal that used Chirag to cut Nitish to size. It worked out and the result was that the BJP with 74 seats secured more than Nitish’s 43.
At one time, it almost looked as if the BJP would have the chief minister from its ranks. When the party sensed that Nitish might desert the BJP and join the RJD-Congress, the BJP reluctantly gave in and Nitish was re-elected as chief minister, albeit in a much weaker position within the alliance.
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Another reason for the BJP to give in on the issue of chief ministership was the bitter lesson it had learnt previously in Maharashtra where the Shiv Sena walked out the alliance on this score.
As for Chirag, of the 135 seats his party contested, all he managed to win was one seat. But, he had managed to cut into Nitish’s votes that helped the BJP win more seats.
Logically, the BJP must have been happy with Chirag for proving to be its hatchet man. Instead, the leadership viewed him as a potential threat – considering he is articulate, has an impressive political presence and has the ability to emerge as a leader in his own right.
For the BJP this was not kosher and the masterminds in Delhi appear to have decided to cut Chirag to size. That it would amount to “using and throwing away” Chirag may have hardly figured in their calculations considering the BJP has shown that it is not a party that pays obeisance to morality.
Chirag’s uncle Paras in comparison comes across as someone who will not politically threaten the BJP nor does he have the ability to emerge as an independent leader. By dangling the carrot of a ministerial berth in the Modi ministry, the BJP managed to influence Paras to crack open the LJP. With full support from LJP’s five MPs, Paras went about expelling Chirag from the party.
The end result is that Paras gets a ministerial berth, Chirag is in the political wilderness at least for now and Nitish gets a message that he will not find it easy to dominate the BJP in Bihar.
Of course, nothing in politics is permanent. Chirag is already gravitating towards the RJD which has welcomed him whole-heartedly. After the bruising elections of 2020, there is no immediate possibility of Nitish returning to an alliance with the RJD unless his personal interests are threatened.
For the BJP, Paras’s induction is the latest confirmation that it is gaining ground in Bihar politics. As for Paras, who seemed to have a limited scope of making a mark in politics, nothing will stop him from smiling all the way to the swearing-in.