Updated: July 6, 2022 6:09:45 am
NEARLY TWO years after the death of Ram Vilas Paswan, Jamui MP and Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) chief Chirag Paswan and his estranged uncle, Union minister and Rashtriya Lok Janshakti Party (RLJP) head Pashupati Kumar Paras, have been vying for the political legacy of the Dalit leader whose birth anniversary is being celebrated on Tuesday.
While Chirag plans to unveil life-size statues of Paswan at Chouharmal Chowk in Hajipur, Paras is scheduled to hold a function at the party’s Patna office where food would be distributed to over 5,000 people. Paras’s RLJP has also announced that functions would be held at district headquarters across Bihar.
After unveiling Paswan’s statue at Hajipur, Chirag has planned to install more statue of his father at all district headquarters over the coming months. One of the statues is also expected to come up at the Paswans’ Shaharbanni village in Khagaria.
Chirag’s decision to kick off the statue-launching spree from Hajipur is not without political symbolism — besides being able to cock a snook at his uncle who is the MP from here, Hajipur is from where Paswan won with a record victory margin in 1977. The seat is closely associated with Paswan, who has contested several times from here, until he made way for Paras in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls because of poor health.
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The LJP headed by Paswan had won six seats in the 2020 Lok Sabha elections. A year after Paswan’s death, Paras split the parliamentary party by taking away five of those MPs, including nephew Prince Kumar Paswan. Paras represents Hajipur and Prince is MP from Samastipur Lok Sabha seat. Chirag and Paras fought a long battle over the LJP name but eventually, had to settle for new names. The original LJP has no representatives in the Bihar assembly with its lone MLA, Raj Kumar Singh, quitting to join the JD(U) last year.
Asked if he has invited his uncle Paras, who is the local MP and Union food processing minister, to the statue unveiling function at Hajipur, Chirag said, “Yes”. But it is almost a given that Paras won’t attend the function. Paras had, while referring to Chirag’s claim, reiterated that a son could inherit his father’s property, but not necessarily his political legacy.
The debate over who has the rightful claim to Pawan’s legacy is unlikely to be settled until the next elections.
The Paswan community remains an important constituency in Bihar with a little over four per cent votes. Both Chirag and Paras know that the space for a Dalit leader in the state is up for grabs.
While Paras is yet to hit the ground to assess his acceptance among the public, he is not known to have much of an appeal among Paswan voters.
Chirag, who has been touring Bihar periodically, has been keeping his options open. He is most likely to join either of the two alliances in the state — the NDA or the Grand Alliance — ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Once a strident critic of JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar, for some time now, Chirag has refrained from attacking the Chief Minister. In fact, he endorsed JD(U) leader Upendra Kushwaha’s recent statement, “Bihar mein NDA ka matlab hai Nitish (in Bihar, the NDA is Nitish)”. The CM was also seen sharing pleasantries with Chirag at a recent iftaar party. Chirag has, however, kept everyone guessing by sharing equally cordial ties with RJD leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav.
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