The fracture in LJP will impact Bihar’s politics
Eight months after Ram Vilas Paswan’s death, there has been a coup in the Lok Janashakti Party (LJP). Paswan’s successor and his son, Chirag, with what many assume to be a nod from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), decided to contest the Bihar assembly polls independently, breaking away from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the state while backing it at the Centre. This cost the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) seats. While extrapolation is hard, the JD(U) believes that in seats where its margin of defeat was less than the LJP’s vote-share, it would have won if the NDA was intact.
Since then, Mr Kumar has been clear that the onus was on the BJP to show that it did not have a secret understanding with the LJP, drawn a red line at Chirag Paswan’s induction into the Union council of ministers, if and when a Cabinet reshuffle occurs, and worked to weaken Mr Paswan’s hold over his party. This plan succeeded (with perhaps the BJP’s blessings) when five LJP Members of Parliament decided to elect Pashupati Kumar Paras, the late Paswan’s brother, as parliamentary party leader.
There are two immediate implications to this shift. One, Mr Kumar’s hand gets stronger in Bihar. Two, Chirag Paswan’s politics is now at the crossroads — he overreached and now doesn’t have the numbers to reverse his ouster. But he is still seen as the inheritor of his father’s legacy by the Paswan community. Whether he chooses to remain with the NDA, the prospects of which are dim since his estranged relatives appear to have tied up with the NDA firmly, or move to the Opposition by joining hands with Tejashwi Yadav or the Congress, will have to be seen. But the larger lesson is that in family-based parties, social justice often is a cover for raw ambition; and dynasts sometimes lack the political acumen of those they succeed. While age is on his side, Chirag Paswan will have to reinvent himself and go back to the roots to overcome this setback.