Five out of six Lok Janshakti Party MPs in the Lok Sabha have rebelled against party chief Chirag Paswan, sacking him as the head of the parliamentary party. The coup has been led by Paswan’s uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras though there are also allegations that this has been done at the behest of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
This has happened just about eight months after Chirag Paswan took over the reins of the party following the demise of LJP founder and his father Ram Vilas Paswan.
The five MPs to rebel are Pashupati Paras (Hajipur), Chandan Kumar Singh (Nawada), Mehboob Ali Kaiser (Khagaria), Veena Devi (Vaishali), and Prince Raj (Samastipur).
The MPs have declared Paras as their new leader and Kaiser as their new deputy leader in the Lok Sabha.
This article will try and look at three aspects:
How the internal feud in the Paswan family contributed to this coup.
Did Nitish Kumar and the Janata Dal (United) play a role in this?
What lies ahead for Chirag Paswan and for Bihar politics?
The Family Feud
The seeds of this discord are said to have been sown before the 2020 Bihar elections. While he was alive, though Ram Vilas Paswan made it clear that Chirag was his political heir, he did ensure a reasonably fair distribution of influence among other family members such as his brothers Pashupati Kumar Paras and Ramchandra Paswan. After Ramchandra's death in 2019, his son Prince Raj took over the Samastipur seat.
However, after the LJP founder's death, Chirag is said to have become increasingly unilateral in his functioning, relying entirely on a small circle of aides. In fact, a lot of the complaints were directed against one particular aide, who has become a major power centre in the party.
Even during the campaign, Chirag is said to have kept Paras sidelined, adding to the latter's resentment. When the LJP won just one seat in the elections and Chirag's plan of emerging as the kingmaker failed, his detractors sensed an opportunity to alter the power equation.
The family angle doesn't end there. Apparently, a key role was played by Paswan's cousin and JD(U) leader Maheshwar Hazari in the entire episode. Hazari is said to have acted as a key intermediary between the JD(U) and the LJP rebels.
Did Nitish Kumar Play a Role in the Coup?
The JD(U) has denied any role in the LJP coup and said that it was the party's internal matter.
However, sources say that the JD(U) MP Rajiv Ranjan alias Lallan Singh, along with Maheshwar Hazari played an important role in the dispute.
Apparently, Nitish Kumar also had some previous goodwill with other rebel MPs like Mehboob Ali Kaiser, which was also leveraged.
Reports suggest that soon after the Bihar election results, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had deputed Lallan Singh to reach out to disgruntled elements in the LJP.
The CM apparently wanted to teach Chirag a lesson for running a campaign against him during the elections and causing the loss of several JD(U) candidates. For the first time since it was formed, the JD(U) stood third in terms of the number of seats in Bihar and a large chunk of the blame went to Chirag Paswan's party playing spoiler.
In April this year, the lone LJP MLA, Rajkumar Singh, defected to the JD(U). Nitish also began strengthening his position through the defection of a BSP MLA as well as the merger of the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party of Upendra Kushwaha.
Through this coup, Nitish has not just avenged the losses that Chirag may have caused in the election, he has also sent a signal to the BJP to not take him lightly. It must be remembered that during the elections, Chirag is said to have had the tacit support of a section of the BJP and RSS in his campaign against Nitish Kumar.
The LJP coup comes at a time when there is speculation of an imminent Cabinet reshuffle and the JD(U) has been demanding increased representation in the Union government.
As of now, the JD(U) doesn't have a single minister in the Modi government, though its MP Harivansh is the deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha.
What Lies Ahead for Chirag Paswan and for Bihar?
This is definitely a blow for Chirag Paswan. His efforts to cajole Paras on 14 June after the coup failed as his uncle refused to entertain him.
A major consequence of these developments would be that this is likely to significantly harm Chirag’s bargaining power within the National Democratic Alliance.
The BJP is said to have used Chirag during the elections not just to cut Nitish Kumar to size but to create confusion among the social justice centred parties in Bihar. The politics of social justice has been the main factor that has prevented BJP from capturing power on its own in the state.
With the BJP now trying to distance itself from Chirag, it is clear that the latter has outlived his utility for them.
However, this doesn't mean end of the road for Chirag Paswan. He will still continue to be seen as the main heir to Ram Vilas Paswan's legacy and thereby to his support among the Passi-Dusadh community, that is the largest and most influential Dalit sub-group in the state.
In the Assembly polls, the LJP got 5.7 percent votes, which was almost entirely due to Chirag's efforts, with some help from the BJP and RSS in certain pockets.
What is clear is that Chirag's efforts to become the BJP's only ally in Bihar or alternatively emerge as a third force, have ended for good.
Now, he has two broad options.
First, to join the RJD-led alliance, strengthen Tejashwi Yadav's bid for power, and make it seem like a youth-led challenge to the NDA.
Second, to wait for the BJP and Nitish Kumar to fall apart because Chirag won't have any space in the NDA as long as the latter is part of it.
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