Updated: July 6, 2021 5:57:56 am
Wearing a T-shirt with the picture of Lok Janshakti party (LJP) leader and Lok Sabha MP Chirag Paswan embossed on it, Rasbihari Paswan, 65, had come to welcome his leader, now fighting for political relevance after a successful rebellion led by his uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras split the party vertically, with all MPs but Chirag himself going to the breakaway faction. But if Rasbihari thought it would be easy to get a glimpse of Chirag, he was wrong — he found himself tailing a 1.5 km long line of people at Sultanpur village, near the industrial town of Hajipur in Bihar on Monday.
Children, men and women waited more than three hours, many with trays of marigold petals, for Chirag, the MP from Jamui, as he came to the otherwise nondescript village to launch his “Aashirvad Yatra” — to get people’s blessings — on the occasion of his late father’s birth anniversary.
As Chirag arrived in an open SUV, to a rousing welcome and soaked in rain, he immediately found himself in the middle of another shower — of marigold petals.
Chirag seems to have picked Hajipur for his yatra for multiple reasons, the primary being it was the constituency his father, Ram Vilas Paswan, represented in Lok Sabha eight times, and is currently represented by his uncle, Pashupati Paras. He is seen as having picked the area to give a clear message to fellow Paswans that he alone can hold on to his father’s legacy of being a leader of the community.
Sultanpur is the biggest Paswan settlement, with over 1,700 households from the community. The village is near the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER), which was built primarily due to Paswan’s efforts.
Invoking Paswan, who remains immensely popular among people of the region, Chirag told the crowd: “My father always said that one has to find his own way. He had made his way through difficulties. If he was the political lion, I am that lion’s son. I will chart my own course with your blessings.”
He did not make any overt mention of Paras. He only wanted people of Hajipur — and Bihar — to shower as much love on him as they did on his father. He said people are intelligent enough to identify the “betrayers”.
As the event wound up, there was no doubt in the assembled crowd’s mind who their leader was.
Sultanpur resident Suraj Paswan said, “My son Pappu worked for Ram Vilas Paswan for 20 years. We are supporting Chirag…when it comes to his legacy, Chirag alone is our leader.”
Suraj, a daily wage-earner, said his village has many unemployed youths and they need a leader of Paswans to politically assert their position.
Minoo Paswan said: “Pashupati Paras has not visited us after winning the Hajipur seat in 2019. We had voted for him only because of Ram Vilas Paswan…”
Earlier in the day, Chirag wanted to start his yatra by garlanding the B R Ambedkar statue near Patna High Court but was not granted permission. He sat in protest for 10 minutes and moved towards Hajipur.
The breakaway faction of LJP also observed Paswan’s birth anniversary with a function in Patna, where Paras reiterated that he did not break but had in fact saved the party. “Chirag might be heir to the property of Ram Vilas Paswan but I am the political heir of his legacy,” he asserted.
LJP principal general secretary Abdul Khalique, however, said: “A clear message has gone among Paswans: that Chirag alone is their leader. We have been getting this feedback from across Bihar. The people of Hajipur have given a thumbs down to its current MP (Paras).”
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