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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019

Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP backs Nitish Kumar as NDA face in Bihar

Chirag Paswan’s comments came just days after his father said there was no controversy in NDA over CM candidate in 2020 assembly polls.

patna Updated: Sep 14, 2019 12:12 IST
Vijay Swaroop
Vijay Swaroop
Hindustan Times, Patna
Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP has backed Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar as the NDA CM candidate in 2020 assembly polls.
Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP has backed Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar as the NDA CM candidate in 2020 assembly polls. (PTI FIle Photo )

The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) on Friday came out in support of chief minister Nitish Kumar asserting that Kumar “is and will remain the NDA face in Bihar”. The Ram Vilas Paswan-led party is a partner in the NDA alliance in the state.

LJP’s backing for the chief minister came days after some state BJP leaders demanded that Nitish Kumar make way for a BJP chief minister during 2020 assembly polls.

“There is no alternative to Nitish Kumar in Bihar. LJP accepts Kumar as NDA leader in the state,” said Jamui MP and LJP parliamentary board chairman Chirag Paswan.

A couple of days ago, Chirag’s father and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan had said there was no controversy in the NDA over the CM candidate. “Nitish Kumar is the face of the NDA in Bihar,” said Paswan, after a press conference in state capital recently.

Chirag also clarified that no official statement has come from the BJP on this issue. “It doesn’t matter who is speaking what on the leadership issue. These might be their personal opinion,” said Chirag.

A few days ago, deputy CM and senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi had also tweeted in favour of Nitish Kumar, “@Nitish Kumar is the captain of the NDA in Bihar & will remain its captain in next assembly elections in 2020 also. When captain is hitting 4&6 & defeating rivals by innings where is the Q of any change.”

The LJP’s support to Kumar’s leadership is crucial in more than one way. The party has reciprocated the gesture of the JD(U) shown during the seat-sharing talks at the time of Lok Sabha polls early this year. The JD(U), NDA sources said, was instrumental in getting six seats and a Rajya Sabha seat for senior Paswan.

The Ram Vilas Paswan-led LJP had bagged 6.5% votes in the 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha polls, and he had emerged as one of the foremost Dalit faces in Bihar politics. His coming together with Nitish Kumar after a long gap, is going to be crucial for the NDA.

Dalit voters comprise nearly 15% of the Bihar’s electorate and are numerically as significant as the Yadavs, who are 14% of the voters.

In the recently held Lok Sabha polls, the NDA recorded a vote share of 53.25%, the LJP, which won all six seats, saw its vote share increase to 7.88% from 6.40% in 2014.

The present crisis over the leadership in the NDA in Bihar cropped up after former Union minister and BJP MLC Sanjay Paswan suggested that Kumar make way for a leader from the saffron party for the top post in the state, which led to a sharp response from the JD(U). Bihar’s deputy CM stepped in to clarify that the incumbent CM was the NDA “captain” in Bihar and would remain so.

However, it seems that crisis is far from over. While national leaders of the BJP maintain a stoic silence on the issue, ripples are still flying in the BJP after a meeting of Sanjay Paswan with firebrand BJP leader and Union minister Giriraj Singh on Thursday in New Delhi. That the BJP leadership is trying to douse the issue is apparent from the meeting of Union minister of state for home affairs and Bihar’s BJP state president Nityanand Rai with Giriraj Singh in New Delhi on Friday. What transpired between the two was not known but sources said the talks revolved around Bihar.