THE DECISION to fight the Bihar assembly elections outside the NDA was “well discussed” with the BJP, Chirag Paswan has told The Indian Express, even as his LJP remained embroiled in a bitter internal feud.
This decision to fight the elections alone, and field candidates in seats where the JDU was contesting, has been termed by the rebel faction headed by party MP and his uncle Pashupati Paras as a bad call – one that precipitated the split in the party.
Paswan also said that while he still has belief in Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the LJP would be “forced to look at alternatives” if that belief was “one-sided”. On a possible alliance with Tejashwi Yadav’s RJD, he said you can “never say never in politics”.
Defending his decision to go it alone in the Bihar elections, Paswan said the BJP was on board. “Their national president, the Home Minister and the national general secretary B L Santhosh ji were in a meeting, and it was clearly decided that it is not possible for me to contest just 15 seats and also when my agenda is not given any importance in the coming government, why should I be part of an alliance like this? But since my alliance was with the BJP since 2014, when the JDU was not in the picture, my party decided we should not contest against the BJP,” he said.
On whether the BJP backed the decision to fight alone, predominantly on seats contested by the JDU, he said, “Yes, of course… It was well discussed with them. I told them categorically that my alliance is with you. I still believe and have huge hope in our Prime Minister and I’ll not field candidates against you, except in six seats, and that also was mentioned to them well in advance. Those seats had two sitting [LJP] MLAs and we had to contest those six.”
Even during the assembly elections, Paswan said, he was “hurt” by words used by BJP leaders such as “vote katua”.
“It was categorically mentioned by their side as well that between us, during the election or after it, there will be no bitterness. I told them my belief is in you, not in Nitish. I’ll not say anything about you and I expect the same, that you should not say anything about me. But during the elections, the way I started hearing words like ‘vote katua’, that bothered me because that is not what was told to me,” Paswan said.
He also said the decision to fight 135 seats not only helped the LJP “expand” in Bihar, but had he fought all 243 seats, there would have been a “different government.”
“When I say I got 6 per cent votes, this was on 135 seats. If I had contested on all 243, I would have got more than 10 per cent voteshare and that would have damaged the BJP as well. In six seats, where we and the BJP both fought, the BJP lost in two. If I hadn’t given my candidates on those seats, they would have won. Had I contested, it would have caused damaged, and there would have been a different government in the state today,” he said.
Interestingly, the lone LJP candidate to win in the elections, Raj Kumar Singh, later joined the BJP.
Asked if tying up with Tejashwi Yadav and the RJD against Nitish Kumar was a possibility, Paswan said, “You can never say never in politics. Having said that, till now I have faith in my Prime Minister whom we have backed throughout.
But yes, I cannot keep this belief one-sided. If the BJP keeps pushing me to a corner… so then, yes, it will be up to the party to decide the alternatives and to decide what should happen next. The party will decide.”
On the rebellion in his party, Paswan said it was clear which side had the weight of the LJP behind it, even as he prepares for a battle in the Election Commission and the courts. Of the 78 party national executive members, Paswan said he had the support of 66.
“MPs and MLAs come and go but the party’s fulcrum is the organisation, is the party constitution. Only two state presidents went with them [Paras faction], everyone else is standing with the party. Of 15 party wings, only one, the mazdoor unit leader went with them,” Paswan claimed.
Asked if there was any chance of a rapprochement between the family members, Paswan said it was no longer in his hands. “Till it was in my hands, I tried behind closed doors. But not now. Now it is not in my hands. If the national executive has taken the decision to expel them, the decision to take them back or not will be with the national executive,” he said.