Bihar Assembly Polls: Paswan’s Death Upsets NDA’s Applecart

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Chirag’s LJP is openly giving tickets to all those BJP leaders who could not get the party ticket for contesting the upcoming state polls

Soroor Ahmed | Clarion India

The death of Union minister of Consumer Affairs Ram Vilas Paswan on October 8 has complicated the challenge before the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar where the three-phase assembly elections start from October 28.

Till hours before his passing away, his son and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Chirag Paswan was busy lambasting the state Chief Minister and Janata Dal-United (JDU) president Nitish Kumar. And, in return , the deputy Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) most prominent face in the state, Sushil Kumar Modi, and the state president of the saffron party Sanjay Jaiswal had been hitting out at junior Paswan for using the photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his party’s posters and at the same time damaging the NDA.

Many analysts are of the view that the demise of the Dalit leader of Bihar may create a sort of sympathy for his outfit in the assembly polls. The LJP was very much in the news after just a couple of days before Paswan’s death; its Parliamentary Board had decided to field candidates in 143 Assembly seats out of total 243 in Bihar.

This is despite the fact that technically, the LJP is still a constituent of the NDA. Senior Paswan remained a Union minister in the Modi cabinet till his last breath. Yet, the party’s de facto leader, Chirag Paswan, had openly been accusing Nitish Kumar of destroying Bihar though the latter is the CM face of the NDA.

Notwithstanding his repeated attack on Nitish Kumar and high praise for PM Modi, Chirag’s LJP is openly giving tickets to all those BJP leaders who could not get the party ticket for contesting the upcoming state polls.

According to reports, at least 30 legislators, ex-legislators or senior functionaries of different parties, most of them from BJP, had recently jumped on the LJP bandwagon. All these rejected BJP leaders are now openly hurling choicest abuses on the saffron party leadership for denying them the BJP ticket and dancing to the tune of Nitish Kumar.

Those who were denied the BJP ticket include former RSS functionary Rajendra Singh, who was even privately projected as the CM candidate in the 2015 elections; Rameshwar Chaurasia, Jawahar Prasad, Usha Vidyarthi, etc. Almost all of them could not get the party ticket because their seats have gone to the JDU under the seat-sharing arrangement.

The problem arises because in the last assembly elections, BJP contested 157 seats, while this time it has to remain content with just 110 seats. This is because the JDU, which was then a Grand Alliance constituent, had to be accommodated.

The repeated surrender of BJP before Nitish Kumar has created a storm in the Bihar unit of the saffron party as, in the process of adjusting, the party had to make heavy sacrifices and cut the name of several committed leaders and cadres.

When this same compromise was made before JDU in the last year’s Lok Sabha polls, the interest of the nation was cited as an excuse to calm down the rebels.

What had happened is that in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP had won 22 seats, while its alliance partner LJP and RLSP bagged six and three seats, respectively. Thus, NDA won 31 out of 40 seats of Bihar.

When the 2019 Lok Sabha polls came, JDU, which had by July 26, 2017 re-joined the NDA, emerged as a hard bargainer compelling BJP to contest an equal number of seats. Thus, both parties agreed to contest 17 seats and left six for the LJP. Thus, the saffron party had to cut the names of five of its sitting MPs just to fulfil Nitish Kumar’s demand. The central leadership of BJP then managed to overcome a sort of revolt with much difficulty.

But those MPs who made such a big sacrifice were not rewarded by the saffron party’s central leadership. But when Nitish Kumar once again started twisting the arms of BJP, many senior saffron party leaders openly defied the central leadership and crossed over to LJP, which was already planning to settle its own score with Bihar’s CM.

Thus, in the process, LJP had hit two birds with one stone. Now, senior Paswan’s death, both BJP and JDU are feeling worried, as even a slight rise in the percentage of LJP votes may mar the poll prospect of both the parties. The central leadership of BJP, on the other hand, is finding itself in trouble as LJP leaders are now openly charging the Bihar BJP leaders of being hand in glove with Nitish Kumar.

On the other hand, PM Modi is under pressure to include anyone from LJP in his cabinet. But he cannot do so as there is not a single JDU minister in the Union cabinet when the latter has 16 MPs against six of LJP.

Only the vice chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Harivansh Singh, belongs to JDU. After the death of senior Paswan, BJP leaders are leaving no stone unturned to pose as a great friend of the deceased.

But, the ground reality suggests that things have gone too far and the NDA is bound to lose the support of core
voters of the LJP.

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