Lok Janshakti Party’s (LJP) Chirag Paswan has been on a warpath against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ally and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar ahead of the assembly polls, which is slated to be held on schedule in October and November, despite the raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak.
Also read: The centrality of the Bihar election
Paswan, whose father Ram Vilas Paswan is a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet of Union ministers, has barely stopped short of positioning himself as the next chief ministerial candidate.
After his father gave him the reins of the party last year, Paswan has asserted that the LJP’s loyalties lie with the ruling BJP and not Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), or the JD(U).
He has constantly attacked Kumar on the Bihar government’s failure to address a raft of issues ranging from corruption, law and order, economic development and handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The LJP chief has also pointed out that Kumar’s bid to seek re-election for a fourth consecutive term was deeply flawed.
Ahead of a crucial meeting to take a call on whether or not LJP will fight the polls in alliance with the JDU, here are a few salvos that Paswan has fired at the CM.
Manjhi’s alliance with JD(U)
Dalit identity politics is at the centre stage in poll-bound Bihar and the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) appears to be in a quandary to decide which party holds sway over the community that is considered a formidable vote bank in the state.
The LJP came out with a full-page advertisement on Friday, with a stinging tagline, “Wo lad rahe hain hum par raaj karne ke liye, aur hum lad rahe hain Bihar par naaz karne ke liye’ (They are fighting to rule us, we are fighting for Bihar’s pride).
Paswan’s call to action is “Aao Banayein naya Bihar, yuva Bihar; chalo chalen Yuva Bihari ke saath’ (Let’s build a new Bihar, a young Bihar; let’s move with the young Bihar). He identifies himself as a ‘Yuva Bihari’, and his Twitter account also carries the name “Yuva Bihari Chirag Paswan”.
The slogans, deemed to be an attack on CM Kumar, were repulsed by JD(U)’s newfound ally in local Dalit icon and former CM, Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) (HAM-S) chief Jitan Ram Manjhi, who said his party was ready to take on the LJP head on if it chose to field candidates against the JD (U).
Promises made to Bihar not kept
In an interview with HT on August 22, Paswan had said that promises made to Bihar have not been kept.
“There is a lot of disagreement between the LJP and the JD (U). The basis of my disagreement is that a lot of promises were made to Bihar that were not delivered. Consider the present scenario. Bihar is facing dual challenges of the unprecedented Covid-19 outbreak and the annual flood fury that have affected a lot of people. It is a matter of grave concern the way the state machinery is working. I expected my CM and my government to perform better and to deliver more, but he (Kumar) disappointed us all,” he had said.
“The day the migrant worker crisis started I expected the stte government to help them and not leave them to die on highways. I expected that buses would be sent to ferry them back home, as was done by Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath. I don’t know if any direct benefit transfer was done because a lot of people whom I met don’t seem to have received any. But the biggest issue right now is the way our government is playing with the lives of the Biharis,” he had added.
Loyalty to PM Modi and the BJP
Paswan has voiced his discontentment against the state government at various party meetings.
On August 16, PTI had reported that Paswan had hinted at a withdrawal of support to the JD (U). He had also defended his attacks on the Bihar government on issues ranging from corruption, law and order, economic development and the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He pointed out that Kumar was trying to equate Lalu Prasad’s Rastriya Janata Dal (RJD) with lawlessness and bad governance while not taking into account the fact that he was sharing power with the latter until not more than three years ago.
He also asserted that unlike the LJP, which had joined the NDA in 2014 expressing full faith in the leadership of PM Modi, Kumar had thrown a fit when his then Gujarat counterpart had emerged as a potential prime ministerial candidate and had snapped years-old ties with the BJP and had gravitated towards the opposition camp.
Paswan iterated that it was beyond doubt that Bihar lagged behind most states on development parametres notwithstanding Kumar’s claim that the state has turned the corner in 15 years of his rule.
He asked the LJP rank and file to continue going to the public with the truth — no matter how harsh it may be — and claimed that economic advancement experienced by Bihar in the last few years was due to PM Modi’s bounty.