Updated: June 15, 2021 3:24:35 pm
LESS THAN a year after Ram Vilas Paswan’s death, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) that he founded in 2000 is headed for an imminent split with five of the party MPs rebelling against the sixth —Paswan’s son and the party’s national president, Chirag Paswan.
The five MPs — Pashupati Kumar Paras (Hajipur), Choudhary Mehboob Ali Qaisar (Khagaria), Chandan Kumar (Nawada), Veena Devi (Vaishali) and Prince Raj (Samastipur) —met Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on Sunday evening and again on Monday, saying that they have elected Paras as LJP parliamentary party leader and Kaiser as deputy leader. Late Monday night, the Lok Sabha Secretariat issued a circular confirming Paras as leader of the LJP in the Lok Sabha.
Of the five MPs, two are related to the Paswan family —Hajipur MP Paras is Ram Vilas Paswan’s younger brother and Samastipur MP Prince Raj is Paras’s nephew.
The series of dramatic events come months after the Bihar Assembly elections in October-November last year, in the run-up to which Chirag Paswan had attacked the JD(U) and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, and stepped out of the NDA, all along maintaining that he wanted to work with the BJP. The LJP had, however, fared poorly in the elections, with its lone MLA eventually crossing over to the JD(U).
On Monday, the rebel MPs, while making it clear that the five MPs want to rejoin the NDA, placed their confidence in “vikas purush” Nitish Kumar.
Speaking to reporters, Paras said, “It was everyone’s desire that after 2014, we go with the NDA coalition. It was late Ram Vilas Paswan ji’s final wish that the poor in the country, those from the weaker sections are uplifted… He is not among us anymore. I want this party to continue to live. Some anti-social elements entered our party and, rejecting the feelings of 99 per cent workers, broke the alliance with the NDA… The result of this was that in Bihar, the NDA alliance was weakened, and the party almost became extinct,” Paras said.
Saying he has “no complaint” against Chirag, Paras said, “Chirag Paswan is a member of my family, is my nephew, and until now the national president of the party.”
But within a few minutes of Paras saying this to the media, evidence of what is both a political and familial fallout became clear in the national Capital. By 11 30 am, Chirag was at 18, Rajendra Prasad Road, Paras’s residence, where Prince Raj, Chirag’s cousin, also stays.
For close to half an hour, the doors refused to open for Chirag, who stayed in his vehicle. Half an hour later, Chirag was taken to a waiting area, where he was told that neither of the two MPs were home. Two hours later, around 1.15 pm, Chirag, who was accompanied by former LJP MLA Raju Tiwari, left without meeting the leaders.
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Paras held a separate meeting of rebel MPs at the residence of Vaishali MP Veena Devi. A source close to Chirag said, “Chirag has even offered a change in party leadership by suggesting the name of his mother Reena Paswan to lead the LJP.”
Both Paras and his son Prince Raj have reportedly been upset with Chirag for not “valuing them” enough. Chirag’s decision to bring in Raju Tiwari as party working president was seen as an attempt to curtail the influence of Prince Raj, who is also LJP state president.
With the latest developments, the new LJP is not expected to face any objections from the JD(U) in its bid to return to the NDA fold. Paras has long been in touch with JD(U) MP Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh. Officially, however, the JD(U) on Monday called the developments an “internal matter” of the party.
In Patna, JD(U) spokesperson and former minister Neeraj Kumar denied talk of his party having played a part in the LJP split, saying, “The name of our MP Lalan Singh has been unnecessarily dragged into this by the Opposition and the media. We have always valued LJP leader Pashupati Kumar Paras and had made him a minister in the Bihar government.”
JD(U) national president R C P Singh, however, attacked Chirag, saying, “There is a saying — as you sow, so shall you reap. Getting an important position is one thing (referring to Chirag becoming national president of LJP) but retaining it is another.”
The revolt in the LJP comes amid intense speculation over a reshuffle of the Union Council of Ministers. Sources say the LJP move is a clear signal that it wants to be part of the governments at the Centre and in Bihar, which would not have been possible with Chirag at the helm. Last week, JD(U) had said that allies should get a respectable share in the Union Government.
So far, while the BJP has avoided commenting on the LJP infighting, a section in the BJP has not been too happy with Chirag for “crossing the limits and reaching a state of no compromise” during the election time. They blame his relentless attacks on Nitish Kumar, despite repeated warnings, for the NDA’s reduced victory margin in Bihar.
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