Updated: October 16, 2020 9:49:49 pm
As he returns to the poll fray after his father’s death, LJP president Chirag Paswan speaks to Santosh Singh about the “void” in his life and his father’s advice to be a “sher ka bachcha”, his relationship with the BJP and the JD(U), and why he is not focussing on Tejashwi Yadav in the election.
You will be taking to the political arena for the first time without your father, Ram Vilas Paswan. His death has created a void in state and national politics. What is your state of mind?
My father had put everything in place for me before he left. He would always motivate me, encourage me and, at times, even instigate me. He would often refer to his February 2005 election decision (when the LJP won 29 seats) to chart his own course. He would always tell me that if a leader has the right intention and a good policy, there is no reason to be afraid. My father was saying this after 51 years of political experience. He told me how he contested his first Assembly election in 1969, without any political worker… He would recall how my uncle Ramchandra Paswan (former MP) used to paste his election posters. People often blamed my father for nepotism but his brothers were his first political workers. My father would often tell me, “Sher ka bachcha jungle chir kar apna raasta banata hai aur gidad maara jata hai (A lion’s cub makes his way through the jungle while a timid jackal gets killed)”. I would prefer to be a lion’s son. My father’s words give me strength.
Your father was more involved in national politics. Would you now stay more in Patna and focus more on state politics?
Definitely. I am very clear about focussing on state politics. It is true that my father always preferred national politics… I have been to many places in my short career but I can say from whatever experience I have is that there has been too much focus on caste politics (in Bihar). What is this politics of rechristening Dalit to Mahadalit. Poverty is the only caste. There should be focus on improving per capita income. It is good to work on ways to improve per capita income of Scheduled Caste communities but there has to be more focus on overall development index.
How would you respond to criticism about you not having a connection with people at the grassroots like your father?
I am part of my father. His world lives inside me. I understand all dialects and rustic elements. I have always been connected to my roots. I would often visit my village, Shaharbanni (Khagaria), till my grandparents were alive… What keeps bothering me is deep-rooted casteism here. My community also has suffered a lot because of it. We have to tackle issues such as migration. I wonder why Patna cannot become an education hub.
But even big Bihar leaders such as Jagjivan Ram and your father could not shed their caste tags?
I always think in terms of the 12 crore people of Bihar. I have taken inspiration from PM Narendra Modi. He was the one who for the first time addressed all 125 crore Indians during the 2014 Lok Sabha campaign. He is my ideal. I am proud to use Bihari before my name. My friends told me to write “Biharwasi (resident of Bihar)” but I protested. If people from Maharashtra are proud of their Maratha identity and people from Punjab have no problems being referred to as Punjabi… “Bihari” being used as a derogatory term, it has been enough of that. I am a proud Bihari. There is a need to take along the entire state of Bihar and focus on real development.
What went wrong between the JD (U) and LJP? Things looked good till the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Even during the 2019 polls nothing was right between us. The LJP and JD (U) have not been together since 2005… In fact, the JD (U) tried to defeat us on all our six seats (LJP won all six) including my Jamui seat, my uncles’ Hajipur, Samastipur and Khagaria seats. I had seen my father calling the CM to complain about it and we had also taken it up with the BJP’s top central leadership. The fact remains that Nitish Kumar does not trust anyone. He does not trust even the BJP. It is the lack of trust that made BJP say that Nitish Kumar alone would be CM irrespective of which party wins more seats. He knows he is winning a lesser number of seats than BJP.
What is the story behind the JD (U) helping Ram Vilas Paswan get to the Rajya Sabha, which the Chief Minister claimed in a recent press conference?
One can just wonder how these words can be said about a man who was elected to the Lok Sabha nine times and was a two-time Rajya Sabha MP, and for a leader who has been mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records twice for winning with the highest margin of votes. I remember the Lok Sabha seat-sharing was announced in the presence of the CM by then BJP national president Amit Shah. On the day of my father’s Rajya Sabha nomination, we got a call from the CM’s House about how the CM had no knowledge about the nomination. My father had to go to CM’s House. The CM was trying to assert his supremacy over my father, who was such a senior leader. It was an insult to my father. Now that he is no more, his seat is vacated. Let the CM send anyone to Rajya Sabha.
Would you want to clarify reports about your decision to walk out of the NDA having the BJP’s support?
I have blind faith in PM. I cannot be separate from the BJP. I cannot be separate from the PM. I have often told Amit Shahji to allow me to contest alone in Bihar and pursue my “Bihar First, Bihari First” agenda. I know the Bihar CM would not include my agenda. When he announced Saat Nischay-2, it was easy for me to make a decision. I also did not want the BJP to contest on less than 100 seats. I knew BJP would not get more than 120 seats in the alliance. I want a double-engine government again but a BJP-led government in Bihar. We had fought against the BJP in Manipur and won one seat. Our MLA later supported the BJP in government… My father had told me not to take any decision that I regret later and see Nitish Kumar as CM again.
There is also speculation about you becoming a Union minister after the Bihar polls.
Honestly, such things don’t cross my mind. I am not in that mental state. With the emotions that I am going through now… My focus is on Assembly polls but LJP is part of the NDA at the Centre.
How do you see the BJP versus LJP contest on some seats?
It is a friendly fight. We will contest only on five seats including two sitting seats. I had given a list of some 38 Assembly seats to the BJP national president J P Naddaji in advance and I am happy most of these seats have gone to the JD(U)’ share. The fight between the LJP and the BJP is a friendly one. If the BJP wins, we will hail it. If we win, we will support the BJP. I want to see a BJP-led LJP government in Bihar.
How do you see Tejashwi Yadav as a leader?
Nothing much on Tejashwi… He is the Leader of the Opposition and has been doing his job. My entire focus is on the current CM and to ensure that he does not return to the post.
Does the LJP see itself as the BJP’s future ally in Bihar, replacing the JD(U)?
Of course, yes. We are very much allies at the Centre. I will ensure that the PM does not face any embarrassment because of us. We are not using his poster in the poll campaign. The JD(U) is on its way out.
Now, Former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi has also sought Bharat Ratna for Ram Vilas Paswan.
As a son, I would be very proud if the country’s highest honour is bestowed on him. As a citizen also, I would crave for the honour for the man who worked with six PMs and worked for the poor.
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