BJP remains mute as uncle-nephew battle for LJP hots up in Bihar

RJD, Congress woo Chirag after Pashupati Kumar Paras' surprise move takes the state's politics by surprise

With uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras on the offensive, Chirag seems to be on the backfoot, but as analysts say, the latter can't be written off

It’s all (happening) in the family.

The battle for supremacy between Pashupati Kumar Paras, who has been unanimously elected the Lok Janshakti Party’s (LJP) parliamentary party chairman, and his nephew Chirag Paswan intensified on Tuesday with the latter expelling five MPs, including the former, who spearheaded a revolt the party.

The five MPs — Pashupati Kumar Paras (Hajipur), Choudhary Mehboob Ali Kaiser (Khagaria), Chandan Kumar (Nawada), Veena Devi (Vaishali) and Prince Raj (Samastipur) —met Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on Sunday and again on Monday, saying that they elected Paras as LJP parliamentary party leader and Kaiser as the deputy. Late Monday night, the Lok Sabha Secretariat issued a circular, confirming Paras as leader of LJP in the Lok Sabha.

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On the other side, Chirag Paswan, son of LJP founder Ram Vilas Paswan, was removed [based on the alleged principle of ‘One Man, One Post’] as party president in an “emergency meeting” of the rebel MPs.

Also read: Party over: Chirag Paswan’s uncle triggers split in LJP

Buzz is that Pashupati Kumar is likely to replace Chirag as the LJP president. The uncle-nephew tug of war for power in just a year after Ram Vilas Paswan’s demise clearly indicates how fragile the family unity is.

Chirag, in his first response, after his uncle ousted him, compared the organisation with a mother who should not be “betrayed”. In a tweet, he said he made efforts to keep the party founded by his father and his family together, but failed.

Chirag also shared a letter on social media he had written to Paras in March, mentioning his “uncle’s unhappiness” over a number of issues, including his elevation as the party president.

Kaiser, who has been elected deputy by Paras, said in Patna, “We want Chirag with us, but he committed a blunder by attacking Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the Assembly elections. Everybody, including the party, suffered due to it. In such a situation, we thought we should have an experienced leader to lead the party.”

“Chirag has many good qualities. It’s not the end as there are highs and lows in politics. Chirag will emerge as a big leader,” Kaiser added.

Internal matter, says BJP

The BJP, which has been accused of extending tacit support to the coup, with Nitish Kumar’s tacit support, however, downplayed the entire episode, saying no need to get perturbed over these things”.

BJP spokesperson Guru Prakash said, “Only the leadership has changed, “the party very much exists” (sic). It is an internal matter of the LJP and also the family. One should not worry much about it.”

Prakash said his party wants him to carry forward the legacy of his father and lend his support to the oppressed and poor.

“A solution to the LJP issue will be found soon,” Prakash added.

Also read: Declining political fortunes in UP worries BJP; Yogi under fire

BJP spokesperson’s statement clearly shows the party’s preference for a rapprochement between Chirag and Paras as the party does not want the LJP vote bank (around six per cent of the state’s population) to get divided in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The NDA had won 39 out of 40 seats in the 2019 election, but with the COVID pandemic taking the sheen off the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre, the BJP does not want to take any chances in Bihar.

RJD invites Chirag to the brood    

Senior Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Shivanand Tiwari invited Chirag to join the Grand Alliance.

“I think Chirag should join the Grand Alliance as I don’t think he will be able to strengthen his party on his own. He has no choice left now. When Chirag spoke against Nitish during the Bihar Assembly election, nobody, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Home Minister Amit Shah, cautioned him against doing so either publicly or privately. It only shows that he has BJP leaders’ tacit support,” Tiwari said.

RJD general secretary Shyam Rajak said the BJP has cheated Chirag as “Manuvadis and Aryavanshs have always encroached upon the rights of Dalits”.

Asked whether the RJD will invite him to join the Grand Alliance, Rajak, a Dalit leader, said, “Let us first strengthen him, then he can join the alliance anytime.”  Congress MLC Premchandra Mishra also invited Chirag to join the alliance.

What could have triggered the coup

Like Nitish Kumar, Chirag has also studied engineering, but both are starkly different when it comes to ‘political technology’ to achieve their respective goals.

So, when Chirag was “asked” to attack Nitish by the BJP, he started attacking Nitish without mincing words. At one stage, Chirag even threatened to jail Nitish for the alleged corruption in the ‘7 Nishchay’ scheme if his party assumed power in the state.

However, Nitish remained silent and waited for the right time for the counter-offensive.

When the BJP lost in West Bengal, Nitish once again started flexing his muscles and prepared a blueprint for the ‘Chirag Operation’ by deputing his three senior leaders, including his close aide and Lok Sabha MP Rajeev Ranjan Singh aka Allan Singh. The BJP remained a silent spectator.

Importantly, Paras, once a Nitish loyalist, never approved personal attacks on Nitish. Even on Monday (June 14), Paras heaped praise on Nitish, by saying, “Nitish Kumar is a good leader who is keen on development.”

Political analysts can connect the dots, perhaps.

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