Bihar polls: Coming of age for Chirag Paswan

Bihar polls: Coming of age for Chirag Paswan

Chirag’s ambition to lead the state while adhering to the principles and political cachet that his father, Ram Vilas, built is turning tricky

 LJP Chief Chirag Paswan. Credit: PTI Photo

All eyes are on Chirag Paswan this election season in Bihar.

The Lok Janshakti Party chief, and heir of former union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, has been hogging the limelight with his persistent attack on incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his venture to go solo in polls, abandoning the NDA alliance, which includes Modi’s BJP.

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Chirag’s ambition to lead the state while adhering to the principles and political cachet that his father, Ram Vilas, built with Modi as a minister in his cabinet, is turning tricky for the 37-year-old. With a consistent attack on Kumar, while attempting to be in the good books of the BJP, the young Dalit leader is juggling ice and fire.

However, Chirag is no rookie in electoral politics.

At one point, Paswan’s LJP was suffering in the Grand Alliance and Paswan was not a union minister for the first time since 1989. Soon, his worsening health condition in 2013 paved the way for Chirag. On son’s advice, Paswan took his party to the NDA, Chirag, then, revamped the party and emerged victorious, twice, in 2014 and 2019.

In 2020, the alliance-politics in Bihar has become dirtier than usual. The incumbent JD(U)-BJP alliance loses LJP, strengthened by Paswan’s Dalit politics, and the Grand Alliance, on the other side, where Tejashwi would like to retain his father Lalu Prasad Yadav’s legacy. Chirag, playing safe, is banking on his narrative that he is fighting to “dislodge” Nitish but will remain faithful to the BJP.

In the first phase, LJP has mostly fielded candidates against the JD(U). “It goes without saying that any step from me will not be against the BJP’s interests,” he said.

Much of his allegiance to BJP stems from his late father’s legacy. Paswan’s appeal to grassroots made him a widely accepted leader with friends across the party lines. As a cabinet minister in the Centre, his ties with Modi remained tight. PM often visited Paswan during his last days.

Also Read | Chirag Paswan, LJP come under fresh attack from J P Nadda

That sentiment with BJP is precious for the LJP’s youth leader. However, the BJP leaders have gone wary of Chirag’s lean towards the PM. BJP minister Prakash Javadekar has called him ‘vote kathua’ and J P Nadda without naming him said that there was an attempt to confusion among the electorate.

BJP continues to reiterate that JD(U) leader remains the chief of the alliance and that “only those are in NDA who accept Nitish Kumar as CM.”

Behind Chirag’s attack on Nitish lies his ambition to project the future of Bihar as a youth-driven state as opposed to the experienced (Nitish has been ruling the state for 15 years and his predecessors, Lalu-Rabri, also inhabited the chair for 15 years). Under the slogan of ‘Bihar First. Bihari First’ he is scrambling for youth’s support to rejuvenate the state, which has seen only hand few leaders swapping positions of power.

Chirag also went to poll for the first time without Paswan as a guiding light. And his departure from the alliance leaves him without any support from PM Modi. Amid these challenges, Chirag Paswan went to polls on October 28, the date for his coming of age.