- Chirag Paswan said he had shared his plans with BJP leadership
- This was his biggest dream, that the party should contest alone, he said
- BJP leaders have said Ram Vilas Paswan would never have fought alone
Chirag Paswan, whose solo fight has become the X-factor in the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA)’s Bihar election campaign, says it was his father Ram Vilas Paswan who “instigated” him to go it alone, contrary to the narrative of the BJP. The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader also revealed he had held shared his plans and concerns with the BJP leadership, mainly Amit Shah, before announcing his decision, and the Union Home Minister was “silent”.
“My father used to instigate me. He used to tell me you must contest alone and that is how the party will strengthen and spread,” Chirag Paswan, in mourning after his father’s death last week, told NDTV.
He said before announcing that he would put up candidates against Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United, he had discussions with Amit Shah and BJP chief JP Nadda. “It’s not that I sat across the table from Amit Shah and was breaking the news to him. I met him once and told him it won’t be possible for him to incorporate me in seat sharing, but would it be possible for him to include my agenda of Bihar First, Bihari First, in NDA agenda. I said if not, allow me to put up my candidates against JDU. He didn’t say anything on it… He was quiet, was listening to it,” said the actor-turned-politician.
Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who founded the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) that Chirag Paswan now heads, died last Thursday after a heart surgery.
After Chirag Paswan, 37, announced his decision to contest separately from the NDA, emphasizing that he remained committed to his alliance with the BJP but would fight Nitish Kumar and his party, many in the ruling coalition suggested that his father would never have condoned it.
BJP leaders like Sushil Kumar Modi, the Deputy Chief Minister, openly said had Ram Vilas Paswan been active, he would never have decided to go against Nitish Kumar and fight alone.
Two-time Lok Sabha MP Chirag Paswan, however, said it was his father who pushed him towards his decision.
“This was his biggest dream, that the party should contest alone. He told me in 2005 I took the decision. You are young, why are you not taking the decision?”
He said many BJP leaders, like Minister of State Nityanand Rai and Shahnawaz Husain had spoken to Ram Vilas Paswan in the past few months and had known of his wish.
“He was very clear. He told me very categorically, if today because of you the current Chief Minister (Nitish Kumar) continues for the next five years, you will be regretting it 10 to 15 years down the line that because of you the state had to suffer for five more years,” Chirag Paswan said.
Nitish Kumar continuing as Chief Minister “would be a disaster”, Paswan senior felt, according to him. “He was the one who pushed me here,” he said.
On his father’s death just before a crucial, career-defining election for him, Chirag Paswan said: “I do miss him a lot. I think no one can ever be prepared for a situation like this. To be very honest, right now I was just not prepared. Elections are right there and him not being around… He was my pillar of strength. Just by that virtue I could fight the world. But I will continue to do that. Not that anything has made me weak. I continue to get strength from him…”
For the LJP, which has seen its core Dalits vote bank eroding over the years, it is a big risk to contest alone. The Paswans largely blame Nitish Kumar for chipping away at their support base over the years and for them, partnering with him was untenable. Many believe the BJP sees the LJP as a good foil to keep Nitish Kumar in check even though the party has openly sided with the Chief Minister. The LJP is no longer a part of the NDA in Bihar, the BJP has said, but it remains an ally at the centre.
Bihar will vote on October 28, November 3 and 7. The results on November 10 will show whether Chirag Paswan’s gamble paid off.