NEW DELHI: With the BJP seemingly caught unawares, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar appears to have cut his challenger Chirag Paswan to the size, after five MPs of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) in a dramatic turn of events, elected Pashupati Paras, who’s known for his close ties with the JD (U), as its new leader on Monday in the nation`al capital.
At a time Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with senior ministers and the BJP chief JP Nadda, is busy reviewing performances of the ministries, the rebellion within the LJP is a shot in the arm for the Bihar chief minister, strengthening JD (U)’s stock and negotiating depth within the NDA for the Cabinet expansion at the Centre.
Paras, younger brother of the LJP founder and former Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, is seen within political circles as being close to the Bihar chief minister. While the Bihar verdict last year had left JD (U) at the third spot, the NDA allies, Vikassheel Insan Party (VIP) and Hindustan Awami Mocrcha (HAM), have been keeping the chief minister edgy with their statements. Though the LJP makes no numerical changes in the Bihar Assembly equations, the five MPs block of the LJP expressing their full support to Kumar may make the chief minister fancy weaning away legislators from the opposition camps in the coming days.
After Chirag Paswan ran a bitter campaign against the Bihar chief minister during the 2020 Assembly elections, the BJP was forced to publicly denounce the LJP. The JD (U) had been assertively stating that LJP wasn’t part of the NDA even while BJP had been avoiding clarifying the position.
Unlike 2019, when the then BJP chief Amit Shah had offered one Cabinet berth to the JD (U), the LJP removing Chirag Paswan and expressing full support to Kumar may help him negotiate hard during the expansion of the Union Council of ministers. Also, the turn of events in the LJP is likely to change the social chemistry in Bihar, with the OBC-Muslim-Dalit combination boosting the confidence of the chief minister. With the Bihar unit of the BJP lacking a credible local face and the party banking on the Prime Minister’s appeal, political observers note that Kumar may gain the upper hand in his equations with the saffron outfit in the coming months.