As the emergence of Kanshi Ram-Mayawati-led BSP had considerably reduced the stature of Paswan as a national-level Dalit leader, he did not tolerate the proximity between the BJP and the largest Scheduled Caste party of north India
Soroor Ahmed | Clarion India
The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), which has decided to go alone in the upcoming Bihar Assembly elections, has a long history of switching alliances.
Formed on November 28, 2000 by Union Minister and Dalit leader, Ram Vilas Paswan, the party first exhibited its quality of deserting the ruling combination way back in the last week of April 2002.
Paswan, then the Communication Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, resigned apparently in protest against the communal riots in Gujarat which had erupted on February 27, 2002 after the torching of a coach of Ahmedabad-bound Sabarmati Express in Godhra.
But the truth lied somewhere else. The LJP leader was upset over the way the BJP decided to back the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati to become Chief Minister after BSP emerged as the largest party in the Assembly elections held in Uttar Pradesh early the same month.
As the emergence of Kanshi Ram-Mayawati-led BSP had considerably reduced the stature of Paswan as a national-level Dalit leader, he did not tolerate the proximity between the BJP and the largest Scheduled Caste party of north India.
So Paswan took the Gujarat riots as an excuse to part ways, though by the time he had left the Union Cabinet, communal violence in Gujarat had subsided. Curiously, in between two months of his resignation and the start of riots, he hardly spoke anything against the violence and against the then state Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Paswan is a past master in camouflaging his strategy and soon started championing the cause of Dalit-Muslim unity. When the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was formed ahead of the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, it was natural for his party to get an entry. After the UPA came to power in 2004, Paswan once again became a Union Minister–he got the Fertiliser portfolio.
Despite the fact that the LJP had then won only four seats–all in Bihar–largely because of its alliance with RJD which had then bagged 22 seats (out of 40) in the Bihar Assembly elections held in February 2005, Paswan’s party deserted RJD. He then raised the question of Muslim Chief Minister. Though his party could win only 29 seats in the House of 243, the election led to a hung Assembly.
The RJD emerged as the biggest party but it was short of about 40 MLAs. This led to another election in October-November the same year. The LJP’s tally was further reduced to 17. However, it certainly played a part in paving the way for the victory of Nitish Kumar-led NDA.
Strangely, this was the situation when both RJD and LJP were prominent constituents of the UPA and both Lalu Prasad Yadav and Paswan were ministers in the Manmohan Singh government.
Once again on the eve of the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the LJP showed its true colours. This time, it joined hands with RJD as the Congress wanted to go it alone in Bihar. The RJD could win only four seats and LJP none even though, as the Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad had done enough for Bihar. By the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Nitish had consolidated his position in Bihar.
After the results of the elections, the Congress, too, ditched RJD and did not include Lalu in the Cabinet though he had won his seat. As was his wont, the RJD supremo once again overlooked all the past flip-flops of Paswan and, in the 2010 Rajya Sabha polls, backed the LJP leader. In the process, Lalu ignored the demand of several top leaders of his own party.
So, by sending Paswan to the Rajya Sabha, Lalu gave another chance to the Dalit leader to make a comeback. But, in the Assembly elections held in October-November 2010, RJD secured only 22 seats and LJP none. He remained loyal to Lalu till the announcement of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. In the last week of February 2014, Paswan once again changed gear and jumped on the Narendra Modi bandwagon.
He later conceded that he buckled under the pressure of his son Chirag who wanted an alliance with the NDA. But his entry into the NDA was never liked by many top BJP leaders of Bihar. When he shared dais with Modi on March 3, 2014 at a rally in Muzaffarpur, several senior leaders, especially Giriraj Singh, publicly declared that they were opposed to his entry. Though they were hard-line supporters of Modi in the BJP, they denounced Paswan as corrupt, casteist and one who backs criminals.
As Paswan grew old and weak, he, some months ago, left all the responsibilities of the party to his son, Chirag, whom he gives all the credit for the right decision in 2014.
Today, when the Bihar BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal blames Chirag for the break-up of the NDA, and says that had Paswan been not ailing, the talks would not have failed, he is wrong.
The truth is that from 2014, it is Chirag, who is calling the shots, and not his father.
Incidentally, three of the six Lok Sabha MPs of LJP come from the Paswan family. Chirag, his cousin, Prince, and uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras are the members of the Lok Sabha while father Paswan is a member of the Rajya Sabha.
Chirag is fully aware that, by next year, his father would be 75 and may have to retire–a euphemism for being dropped–from the cabinet. In that case, he would get nothing. Chirag is also well aware of the fact that if Modi cannot make a single MP from Janata Dal United–out of 16–as minister, then he is also not going to induct anyone from the LJP.
Chirag may apparently be targeting Nitish Kumar and not Modi, whom he would frequently praise. He knows that he has to play a long innings. At the opportune moment, LJP may once again switch alliance as his father did in 2002.