The Black Monday for Lok Janashakti’s Party Chirag Paswan – the overnight coup that saw five of the party’s six MPs rebel took place after a mutual understanding between the BJP and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United (JDU), sources have indicated. This, though, is just the beginning. The LJP’s leader in the Lok Sabha, who was replaced by his uncle, Pashupati Kumar Paras by late Monday evening, will be completely marginalised within the party soon, sources said.
This is a well-planned move which has the backing of senior BJP and JDU leaders.
After splitting votes during last year’s assembly polls by turning against the leadership of Nitish Kumar, Chirag Paswan had become an “obstacle in the unity of NDA”, sources said.
Nitish Kumar – who suspected that his rebellion took place at the behest of the BJP – refused to have anything to do with him after the election. The Chief Minster made it clear that he did not want Paswan Junior to be part of any meeting of the alliance, or have any relation with the BJP or the Centre, sources said.
One instance, sources said, was in January before the budget session started. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi had invited Chirag Paswan for the NDA meeting. But the JDU had strongly objected. Eventually, the invitation was rescinded, after which JDU attended the NDA meet.
Matters came to a head with the possibility of an expansion in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet.
Mr Paswan was seen as a natural choice. His father Ram Vilas Paswan had died while in the cabinet and in that sense, the party had one seat in the Council of Ministers.
But this time, the JDU is also hoping for a ministerial post this time, even though Mr Kumar had turned it down after the BJP sweep in the 2019 election and the subsequent disagreement with Union minister Amit Shah about the number of cabinet berths.
Nitish Kumar, sources said, was not keen on sharing space with Mr Paswan in the cabinet. Accordingly, senior JDU leader Lallan Singh and a BJP Rajya Sabha MP contacted the LJP MPs on this issue.
Pashupati Kumar Paras was told that he would be able to become a part of the NDA in Bihar and the Centre only if Chirag Paswan was not in command.
An agreement was reached after long deliberations and the responsibility of introducing the five MPs to the Speaker after their rebellion on Sunday night was given to a BJP parliamentarian from Bihar.
On Monday evening, the Speaker accepted Pashupati Kumar Paras as the Leader of LJP in the Lok Sabha in place of Mr Paswan.
Mr Paras – known to be the right hand man of his brother Ram Vilas Paswan – fell out with his nephew soon after the union minister’s death. The differences were mainly about Nitish Kumar. Mr Paras had been vocal in his support for Mr Kumar and opposed Chirag Paswan’s decision of going solo in the polls, breaking away from the NDA.
On his part, Mr Kumar has been deeply upset over Chirag Paswan’s personal attacks on him and the BJP’s radio silence over it. This, along with Mr Paswan’s repeated comment that he wanted the Chief Minister’s post to go to the BJP, had deepened the JDU’s suspicion that he had rebelled against Mr Kumar’s leadership at the behest of BJP.
According to JDU leaders, the party lost 32 seats because of Chirag Paswan – which pushed it on the backfoot and accorded the BJP the primacy in the alliance within the state.
Sources said a meeting of the LJP’s national executive will soon be held in which Mr Paras will be elected the party’s national president – a post currently held by Mr Paswan. As and when PM Modi’s Council of Ministers expands, Mr Paras can be made a minister.
The LJP can even be made part of the government in Bihar, sources said. Though the party failed to win a single seat in the state, the minister can be routed through the Legislative Council.
Political leaders in Bihar, however, said it might be difficult to ignore Chirag Paswan completely, as LJP supporters know he is the political heir to Ram Vilas Paswan and consider him the successor.
The main reason for this rebellion is the working style of Chirag Paswan. He is believed to have been taking all the party-related decisions without consulting any MPs or any other senior leader. It is alleged that all the decisions were influenced by his political advisor Saurabh Pandey and that Mr Paswan was simply putting his signature to them. This includes the decision to contest against the BJP and the JDU in the Bihar assembly polls last year. Mr Paswan, it is believed, had stopped meeting with the party MPs.