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Published On: Sun, Sep 15th, 2019

Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP backs Nitish Kumar as NDA face in Biha

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Bihar-Chief-Minister-Nitish-Kumar-and-Union-Minister-Ram-Vilas-Paswan-770x433PATNA/NEW DELHI : : Assembly elections in Bihar more than a year away, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is facing pressure from allies like Lok Janashakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan. The moves give an appearance of a proxy war between Mr Kumar and the BJP – a recurrence of a rift that had appeared ahead of the recent Lok Sabha election as well.
The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) on Friday came out in support of chief minister Nitish Kumar asserting that Kumar “is and will remain the NDA face in Bihar”. The Ram Vilas Paswan-led party is a partner in the NDA alliance in the state.
LJP’s backing for the chief minister came days after some state BJP leaders demanded that Nitish Kumar make way for a BJP chief minister during 2020 assembly polls. “There is no alternative to Nitish Kumar in Bihar. LJP accepts Kumar as NDA leader in the state,” said Jamui MP and LJP parliamentary board chairman Chirag Paswan.
A couple of days ago, Chirag’s father and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan had said there was no controversy in the NDA over the CM candidate. “Nitish Kumar is the face of the NDA in Bihar,” said Paswan, after a press conference in state capital recently.

Chirag also clarified that no official statement has come from the BJP on this issue. “It doesn’t matter who is speaking what on the leadership issue. These might be their personal opinion,” said Chirag.
A few days ago, deputy CM and senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi had also tweeted in favour of Nitish Kumar, “@Nitish Kumar is the captain of the NDA in Bihar & will remain its captain in next assembly elections in 2020 also. When captain is hitting 4&6 & defeating rivals by innings where is the Q of any change.”

The LJP’s support to Kumar’s leadership is crucial in more than one way. The party has reciprocated the gesture of the JD(U) shown during the seat-sharing talks at the time of Lok Sabha polls early this year. The JD(U), NDA sources said, was instrumental in getting six seats and a Rajya Sabha seat for senior Paswan.

The Ram Vilas Paswan-led LJP had bagged 6.5% votes in the 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha polls, and he had emerged as one of the foremost Dalit faces in Bihar politics. His coming together with Nitish Kumar after a long gap, is going to be crucial for the NDA.

Dalit voters comprise nearly 15% of the Bihar’s electorate and are numerically as significant as the Yadavs, who are 14% of the voters. In the recently held Lok Sabha polls, the NDA recorded a vote share of 53.25%, the LJP, which won all six seats, saw its vote share increase to 7.88% from 6.40% in 2014.
The present crisis over the leadership in the NDA in Bihar cropped up after former Union minister and BJP MLC Sanjay Paswan suggested that Kumar make way for a leader from the saffron party for the top post in the state, which led to a sharp response from the JD(U). Bihar’s deputy CM stepped in to clarify that the incumbent CM was the NDA “captain” in Bihar and would remain so.

However, it seems that crisis is far from over. While national leaders of the BJP maintain a stoic silence on the issue, ripples are still flying in the BJP after a meeting of Sanjay Paswan with firebrand BJP leader and Union minister Giriraj Singh on Thursday in New Delhi.
That the BJP leadership is trying to douse the issue is apparent from the meeting of Union minister of state for home affairs and Bihar’s BJP state president Nityanand Rai with Giriraj Singh in New Delhi on Friday. What transpired between the two was not known but sources said the talks revolved around Bihar.
In an interview with the English language The Hindu, Mr Paswan said, “Nitish Kumar is our Captain and he will continue unless if the BJP decides to bring in a different Captain.”
Mr Paswan, whose party won all six seats he contested in the recent Lok Sabha election, is gunning for more seats in the assembly. Currently he has just two MLAs, compared to 52 of the BJP and 67 of Nitish Kumar’s party. The controversy triggered by Mr Paswan follows the BJP state leaders’ move to put a question mark on Mr Kumar being retained as the coalition’s face.
Last week, a section of BJP leaders claimed that their party might project a different leader as the face of the coalition this time. But their move was deftly deflected by the party’s state chief Sushil Modi, who is also Nitish Kumar’s deputy in the government.

The face-off over seats in the Lok Sabha polls had ended with Mr Kumar carrying through his point of a 50-50 division. BJP chief Amit Shah had flown down to Patna to meet the Chief Minister and iron out a deal. That time, Mr Paswan had got only six of the state’s 40 seats and a Rajya Sabha seat for himself.
The strategy had worked out for the BJP. With Mr Kumar – the state’s tallest leader, dubbed “Sushashan babu” (Mr Good Governance) – on their side, the coalition had won 39 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats, a record in the parliamentary history.
In a related development, Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal has increased the attack on Nitish Kumar. On Saturday, senior RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said back channel talks were on with the JDU, but it was denied by the leaders of both parties.

The JDU’s national spokesman KC Tyagi has said there’s no question or going back with the party of Lalu Yadav. Mr Yadav is in jail, a court finding him guilty in several corruption cases. Despite a huge build-up and a tough campaign, the RJD, the largest party in the Bihar assembly with 80 seats, failed to win a single Lok Sabha seat.
A section of RJD leaders privately admit that the aggression of Lalu Yadav’s son Tejashwi Yadav towards Nitish Kumar had gone against the party.But they say this time, it is likely to give the BJP a upper hand in the seat-sharing exercise. (With  Inputs from Bihar  ).

 

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