Unease in Bihar’s Ruling Alliance Ahead of Assembly Elections 2020, Scheduled for Next Month.

Unease in Bihar’s Ruling Alliance Ahead of Assembly Elections 2020, Scheduled for Next Month.

The elections are slated for October-November and maybe held on schedule despite the Covid-19 outbreak

The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) is a state political party in the state of Bihar, India. It is led by Ram Vilas Paswan. The party was formed in 2000 when Paswan split from Janata Dal (United). The party has considerable following amongst Dalits in Bihar. Currently the party is a member of the National Democratic Alliance. Actor turned politician Chirag Paswan is the party president.

Like many Indian regional parties, the LJP since its formation has been dominated mostly by a single family. Ram Vilas Paswan was the principal founder and long-time president of the party. Also prominent were his son, Chirag Paswan, who served as the chairman of the LJP’s parliamentary board, and younger brothers Pashupati Kumar Paras, who acted as the party’s Bihar unit chief, and Ramchandra Paswan, who was one of its national vice presidents.

Paswan remains its valuable ally and the NDA’s Dalit face in Bihar in the absence of a credible Dalit leader in the state. Chirag is considered to be the natural inheritant of his father’s political legacy and would remain as valuable in future, for the BJP.

The party, now helmed by Paswan’s MP son Chirag, has often been critical of the Nitish Kumar government over a variety of issues ranging from alleged corruption in the public distribution system, to road construction and violation of prohibition laws. There have been media reports that the LJP was unhappy over the return of the Hindustani Awam Morcha (secular) into the NDA fold and contemplating fielding candidates against JD(U) nominees.

Described by Lalu Prasad Yadav as “mausam vaigyanik” or weather scientist for his ability to read the political winds and go with the winning side, the Dalit leader from Bihar knows which side of the bread is butter. So does his son Chirag, the national president of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).

That’s why Chirag’s recent moves — attacks on the Nitish Kumar government — has got political observers curious. A fortnight ago, he declared his chief ministerial ambition and said that the LJP is an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and not of Kumar’s Janata Dal (United). Chirag is very ambitious and political circles see him as a CM aspirant.

The LJP needs to win enough seats in the Bihar assembly to remain relevant. The 2020 election could be the last for Nitish Kumar, who is 69 years old. After he hangs up his boots — in 2025 or before — the LJP hopes to appropriate his political legacy, which, when combined with the saffron party’s own vote bank, would propel it as the undisputed numero uno in Bihar politics.

In an open admission about the discord in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), in Bihar, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) president Chirag Paswan told The Hindu’s Sobhana K Nair that he had not met or spoken to Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Nitish Kumar for a year now. His comments come just two months before the State goes for polls in November.

“NDA will contest elections under Nitish Kumar. There should not be any confusion on that score. LJP is free to walk if it wants to,” JD(U) secretary general K C Tyagi said in what marked an escalation of the intra-NDA tension ahead of the polls. The JD(U) has also made it clear that it will not hold any seat-sharing talks with the LJP, as its ties have been traditionally with the BJP.

Chirag Paswan, who has spoken vociferously against CM Kumar and accused him of failing to keep his promises, met BJP president JP Nadda on Wednesday to thrash out issues ahead of the formal seat- sharing talks that are expected to take place next week.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has stepped in to address the widening rift between its Bihar partners Janata Dal (United) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) ahead of state elections scheduled for later this year.

According to sources in the BJP, party president J.P. Nadda has advised LJP president and MP Chirag Paswan to tone down his attacks on Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, also telling the young leader to be “realistic” in assessing his strengths before taking on a political veteran.

While aiming at Kumar, Chirag Paswan has refrained from attacking the BJP and has even been lauding Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In poll-bound Bihar, the ruling NDA is headed for trouble as rift surfaces between two of its crucial allies – Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM).

The LJP believes Kumar wooed back Manjhi to counterbalance Paswan’s party. Sources said that Jitan Ram Manjhi’s entry in the NDA fold and his announcement for unconditional support to Bihar CM Nitish Kumar has irked LJP chief Chirag Paswan. A section in the LJP also feels that Manjhi has been inducted in the NDA at the insistence of Nitish Kumar but without consulting alliance partners.

Political experts feel that the conflict between LJP and HAM could be due to their Dalit vote bank in the state. LJP’s Ram Vilas Paswan and HAM’s Jitan Ram Manjhi are considered prominent Dalit leaders in Bihar. Dalits make up for around 16 per cent of the total population in the state. Among Dalits, there is also an extremely marginalized section called Mahadalits.

Reacting on the reports regarding resentment in the LJP over his party’s entry into the NDA, HAM spokesperson Danish Rizwan told this newspaper, “Our only agenda is to extend support to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who has been working hard for the state’s development. We are not concerned with parties who are not happy with our entry in the NDA. Being an NDA partner, the LJP should not field its candidates against JD(U) in the state”.

Dalits, who roughly constitute around 16 per cent of the state’s voters, form the bedrock of support of both the LJP and HAM(S), and some amount of jostling between the two parties for greater share in the electoral pie appeared inevitable after Manjhi’s return.

“It doesn’t matter who is happy or unhappy (over HAM’s return). We have come here to strengthen the hands of Nitish Kumar and not for tickets to contest elections. We will be forced to open our mouth if Chirag Paswan continues to issue threats like he will put up candidates against JD(U) nominees. If that happens, we too will field our candidates against LJP,” HAM spokesperson Danish Rizwan said.

With dalits constituting a significant chunk of the electorate, Manjhi has often clashed with Paswan’s party. The two had bickered even before the 2014 general elections for a larger share of tickets. Manjhi was then a part of the NDA and the JD(U) a constituent of the grand alliance.

HAM(S) has support among ‘Mushar’ voters. They are a ‘Mahadalit’ community, which has a substantial population in the state where Paswans’ are numerically the most influential among a plathora of dalit castes.

The BJP has so far kept itself away from the feud, and insisted the alliance will contest the polls as a cohesive unit.For BJP “Paswan is an important ally but Nitish is head of government and the BJP doesn’t want to antagonise Nitish without any political purpose”.