A seasoned politician, Ram Vilas Paswan is credited with removing the tag of ‘political untouchability’ from Narendra Modi by being the first to rejoin the NDA which he had quit following the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Known in political circles for correctly judging which way the wind was blowing, the 67-year-old Lok Janshakti Partyleader will be a prominent Dalit face of the new government.
The only exception for Paswan was the five-year period from 2009 to 2014, when his gamble of contesting Lok Sabha polls in alliance with Lalu Prasad’s RJD and keeping Congress out did not pay off and his LJP drew a blank and he himself lost from pocket-borough Hajipur.
Starting his electoral career by winning Bihar Assembly election in 1969 as a member of Samyukta Socialist Party, he shifted to national politics soon and key important ministries under various prime ministers.
Springing a surprise by dumping RJD and Congress to join hands with BJP, Paswan won the poll this time by over 2.25 lakh votes from his traditional seat Hajipur (SC) in Bihar.
With his latest victory, Paswan will enter Lok Sabha for a record ninth time. He made a dream debut in Parliament in 1977 by a margin of 4.24 lakh votes that took him straight to the Guinness Book of World Records.
In 1989, he improved the record by winning from the same seat by 5 lakh votes.
After losing the 2009 poll from Hajipur, the LJP chief reached Rajya Sabha with the help of Lalu Prasad in 2010.
Born in a scheduled caste family on July 5, 1946 in Shaharbanni village in Bihar’s Khagaria district, Paswan took active part in anti-Emergency agitation.
An ardent follower of Loknayak Jayprakash Narayan and Raj Narayan, Paswan became general secretary of Lok Dal in 1974.
In 1975 when Emergency was proclaimed he was arrested and spent the entire duration in jail.
On being released in 1977, he became a member of Janata Party and won election to Parliament for the first time. He was subsequently elected in 1980, 1984, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2004 and 2014.
In V P Singh ministry in 1989, Paswan became minister for Labour and Welfare. In 1996, he was leader of the ruling United Front in Lok Sabha as then Prime Minister I K Gujral was a member of Rajya Sabha.
This was the time that he became Railway minister.
In the NDA ministry he presided over Communications ministry but was later shifted to Coal.
In 2000 he formed the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).
During UPA-I he held portfolios of steel and chemicals and fertiliser. UPA II was the only government which did not include him as a minister from 2009 to 2014.
Paswan is perhaps the only leader to serve as a Union Minister under six different Prime Ministers – Vishwanath Pratap Singh, H D Devegowda, I K Gujaral, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi.
His actor-turned-politician son Chirag, who has made his debut from Jamui (SC) seat, is said to be the man who pushed his father towards BJP in the current polls, enabling LJP to bag six of the seven seats it had contested in Bihar.