The Lok Janashakti Party (LJP) on Monday decided to put up a list of 143 names for the upcoming Bihar Assembly elections and authorise the party’s national president, Chirag Paswan, to take a final call on whether to contest the elections under leadership of Chief Minister and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar.
The decision at the LJP’s Bihar Parliamentary board comes after months of sniping by the party, in particular Chirag, against Nitish over his record of governance, and with communication lines between the two leaders shut for over a year.
While some sense of finality was expected on Monday, a senior LJP leader said that before the meeting, a phone call was received from a senior national BJP leader, where a meeting between the two parties was mooted for the weekend. This is seen as a factor in why any decision was put off.
A senior BJP leader from Bihar said, “We would like LJP to fight within the alliance. In close fights, LJP [candidates] contesting against JD(U) will only harm the alliance on the ground.”
Despite its attacks on JD(U), LJP has been effusive in its praise for BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and wants to continue in an alliance with the national party, especially with Ram Vilas Paswan as a Union minister.
After the meeting, Raju Tiwari, Bihar MLA and president of the party’s state Parliamentary board, issued a note that spoke of two key decisions. The first suggested selection of 143 candidates by the party and forwarding that list to the Parliamentary board. “A resolution was also passed giving powers to Chirag Paswan to decide on the future course of action – whether to stay in an alliance (with JD-U, among other NDA members, in Bihar),” Tiwari said.
At the meeting, a senior LJP member said, a demand was raised to contest the election without the JD(U) and to put up candidates against it.
Fate of alliance in BJP hands
The future for the LJP is tricky, and much will depend on what the BJP wants. The relationship between the LJP and the JD(U), in particular, has been publicly acrimonious for many months. While the LJP cadre may want the party to put up candidates against the JD(U)'s, in large part so they can contest more seats and spread the party's footprint in Bihar, the party is a BJP ally at the Centre and Ram Vilas Paswan is a Union Minister. So despite Chirag Paswan and CM Nitish Kumar's acrimony, the fate of this alliance may be in the hands of BJP.
“I will put my demand (given) that in the past Chirag Paswan-ji has been called Kalidas,” Sanjay Singh, senior LJP leader and board member, said, referring to JD(U) MP Rajiv Ranjan Singh calling Chirag Kalidas and recalling the tale about the Sanskrit poet cutting the tree branch he was sitting on.
Singh said, “When he (Chirag) raises issues of Bihar, he is called a rebel. Amid such things, we should talk about what Bihar needs, and…wherever there is a JD(U) candidate, we should put up an LJP candidate. This is going to be my demand.”
Sources in LJP said any decision on the party fighting it alone is to be taken by the central Parliamentary board, which comprises present and past Members of Parliament. “Opinions from state leaders have been taken on board. Now a meeting of past and present MPs will be called to discuss further. All options are on the table,” a senior leader said.
A senior LJP leader said: “The mood within the party is to fight against JD(U) at the state level, and that’s what the sense from the ground is. But it might be hasty to take a decision without understanding what is being offered. So far, no meeting has officially taken place between LJP, JD(U) and BJP. It is best to wait a little because of our relationship with the BJP.”
The leader said, “JD(U) says we are not an ally, but we are one of the BJP. But one thing is clear: the present situation of animosity, and the LJP having no say in the alliance, is untenable and needs to be resolved.”