An overnight coup in Chirag Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) has left him as the lone party MP with five others breaking away and writing to the Lok Sabha Speaker to be treated as separate group.
Reports say the five LJP MPs have also called for a new leader in place of Chirag Paswan, the son of party founder Ram Vilas Paswan, who died last year.
The LJP revolt is led by Chirag Paswan’s uncle Pasupati Kumar Paras, the younger brother of Ram Vilas Paswan. The split was inevitable; uncle and nephew were hardly on the talking terms and used to communicate their grievances through letters.
Sources say Mr Paras, a first-time MP from Hajipur, was promised a Union Cabinet berth by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, which sealed the deal.
Nitish Kumar, sources say, had already been working on the rest of the LJP MPs through his close lieutenant Lalan Singh. The rebels, including Chirag Paswan’s cousin Prince Raj, Chandan Singh, Veena Devi and Mehboob Ali Kaiser, may support the Chief Minister’s Janata Dal United (JDU) in the coming days.
Chirag Paswan is now isolated after taking over LJP’s leadership after his father’s death last year.
The Chief Minister’s reported role in the LJP split has given it the “revenge-served-cold” twist. Chirag Paswan’s decision to break away from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and field his own candidates in the Bihar election last year is believed to have inflicted the worst damage on Mr Kumar, whose JDU finished third after the BJP and the opposition RJD.
The LJP’s meltdown was, in fact, set in motion barely four days after Ram Vilas Paswan’s death on October 8, when Chirag threatened to expel his uncle over a statement and reportedly declared: “You are not my blood.”
Mr Paras was reported to have replied: “Your uncle is dead to you from now.”
Those close to Mr Paras say he felt insulted when his nephew did not bother to check with him about the party’s candidates for the Bihar assembly election.
For Chirag Paswan, another deep cut is the defection of his cousin Prince Raj, who seems to have joined the rebels even though he was given the post of LJP’s Bihar president.
LJP insiders alleged that this was a crisis waiting to happen, mainly because of Chirag Paswan’s perceived arrogance. “He never bothered to keep his promise of touring the state and interacting with the party workers, made just after the assembly elections,” sources said.
Even when the LJP’s only MLA joined Mr Kumar’s party, Chirag Paswan refused to see the warning signs and didn’t take reports of possible defections from his parliamentary party seriously, the sources say, adding that his “overconfidence and aloofness” cost him.