The Chirag Paswan-led Lok Jan Shakti Party will hold its crucial meeting on Monday to decide if it will stay with Nitish Kumar-led NDA in the Bihar Assembly polls due later this year.
The LJP’s apparent discomfiture with Nitish Kumar’s JD-U worsened recently after Jitan Ram Manjhi-led Hindustani Awam Party (HAM) decided to back the NDA. The LJP and HAM both champion the cause of Dalits and Mahadalits in the caste conscious state.
On Saturday, Chirag Paswan, who is the son of Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, wrote to Chief Minister Kumar asking him to ensure that family members of all SC/STs killed in the last 15 years are given employment.
Related news: LJP meet to decide whether to fight JD(U) in Bihar polls
The letter came close on the heels of CM’s directive to frame rules to provide a job to the next of kin if a person from an SC or ST community is killed. “Unless jobs are given to family members of all Dalits killed in the 15 years of Nitish’s tenure as Chief Minister, the announcement would be perceived only as an election stunt”, said Paswan in his letter.
Over the past few months, Chirag Paswan has repeatedly targeted Nitish over his government’s performance, criticizing its handling of Covid-19, the lockdown and floods.
The BJP, another major constituent of the NDA, has made reconciliatory moves, and party chief JP Nadda has said that all NDA allies will fight the polls under Nitish’s leadership.
In his letter, Chirag alleged that promises made to Dalit communities have not been fulfilled. “It is the same government that had promised to give land to each Dalit family. But Dalits are disappointed at the government not having fulfilled its promise… People are calling me to know if the government’s instruction to give jobs to family members of Scheduled Caste people in case of their killing is an election stunt.”
LJP sources said a clear decision would be taken in the Monday meeting on whether the party will contest the elections as part of NDA. “We are an ally of the BJP at the Centre and there is no problem with them. But for a year, except one conversation on the Sushan Singh Rajput case, the Chief Minister has not spoken to Chirag,” said a senior leader.
Sources said one option being discussed within the LJP is to withdraw from the alliance and contest the polls on its own. In that case, sources said, LJP would contest against BJP nominees, but will put up candidates against JD-U nominees.
“This will ensure that when the next government is formed, BJP will take our voice into consideration,” an LJP leader said.
But Manjhi, having sensed that, told the media last Friday that if LJP contests against JD-U, then he would put up his candidates against the party elsewhere.
The LJP has two MLAs in the 243-member Bihar Assembly, so it is to be seen how the Paswans navigate the party given their tight position within the NDA.