Having made a comeback with six seats from Bihar, Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP could be set to head for UP and seek to gain the ground that has seemingly been ceded by Mayawati’s BSP, which drew a blank in the polls.
The LJP is set to position itself as a “credible Dalit party” in UP and that signal, NDA sources said, has came from Narendra Modi. During a courtesy call, the BJP leader is said to have suggested to Paswan that he be more visible both in Bihar and UP.
The BJP, which won 71 of UP’s 80 seats, can apparently do without allies and Modi’s reported suggestion is apparently aimed at a long-term objective, beginning with eastern UP. “Modi was keen on Paswan concentrating on UP too because there is a possibility of Mayawati losing her grip on her traditional vote base,” said a source.
The sources said another signal from Modi, and others in the BJP negotiating with Paswan, was that LJP would not get the heavyweight railways portfolio Paswan had held earlier. “While nothing has been revealed, the portfolio the LJP does get could be one Paswan held in the past,” said the source. Apart from railways, Paswan has been minister for labour, mines, chemicals & fertilisers, and communication & IT.
Paswan told this paper he did not have any preference. A section of the LJP said railways “is in a mess”, having apparently realised the ministry isn’t coming their way.
Paswan’s son Chirag, a first-time MP, is said to have received praise from Modi. There has been speculation about Chirag getting an MoS berth but it might not happen, according to an assessment by insiders.