The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) is set to hold a crucial meeting Monday to decide whether it will go into the upcoming Bihar Assembly election as a part of Nitish Kumar-led NDA alliance.
On the eve of the meeting, LJP president Chirag Paswan on Sunday wrote to Nitish, Chief Minister and JD(U) chief, asking him to ensure that family members of all SC/STs killed in the last 15 years are given employment.
The letter comes after the Chief Minister’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”, wrote Paswan.
The LJP and the JD(U), both NDA constituents, have been locked in a tussle for a while now. The BJP has tried to make reconciliatory moves, with party chief J P Nadda saying all NDA partners will fight the polls under Nitish’s leadership. Over the past few months, LJP president Chirag Paswan has repeatedly targeted Nitish over his government’s performance, criticising its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the lockdown and floods.
A fresh churning in Bihar
Ahead of the polls in Bihar, a churning has started with key Dalit leaders switching parties. Within NDA, LJP is trying to woo Dalit voters by questioning the Nitish government. HAM(S) chief and Dalit leader Jitan Ram Manjhi, who recently returned to the NDA, is backing the government.
In the latest salvo Sunday, Chirag alleged that promises made to Dalit communities have not been fulfilled.
In a letter to the Chief Minister, the LJP president wrote, “It is the same government that had promised to give three decimal 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.”
He added, “You have been CM for (the) last 15 years. Your government should give jobs to family members of all those killed within a month and force speedy trial of pending cases of Dalit atrocities.”
JD (U) spokesperson K C Tyagi told The Indian Express, “Nitish Kumar has been a leading political activist to come out of the socialist movement… His statement of laying down provisions to give jobs to SC/ST families should be welcomed instead of challenged.”
LJP sources said a categorical decision would be taken in the meeting on Monday 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 Sushant Singh Rajput case, the Chief Minister has not spoken to Chirag Paswan. There is also a feeling that there may be some anti-incumbency,” a senior leader said.
Sources said one of the options being discussed within the LJP is to pull out from the alliance and contest the polls on its own. In that case, sources said, LJP will not field candidates against BJP nominees, but will contest against JDU nominees. “This will ensure that when the next government is formed, BJP will take our voice into consideration,” an LJP leader said. Sources also said that if LJP continues in the alliance, it is likely to get few seats to contest.
A JD(U) leader said LJP was trying to secure a better deal. “The truth is they have 2 MLAs here. This is all posturing.”