‘Operation LJP’: There is more to Nitish Kumar’s ‘revenge’ than meets the eye

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Updated: June 15, 2021 4:40 PM

Reports claim that Nitish Kumar has been working to isolate Paswan since the 2020 assembly polls.

Chirag Paswan Nitish Kumar Pashupati ParasPashupati Paras had long been unhappy with Paswan's style of functioning and was joined by other MPs, including Chandan Singh, Veena Devi and Mehboob Ali Kaiser.

It has been just eight months since the Bihar polls where the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) of Chirag Paswan faced a humiliating defeat, but managed to make a big dent in Nitish Kumar’s vote bank relegating Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) to the third position in the polls. Since then, Chirag has awaited his return to the NDA fold and the BJP has kept him doing just that. The never-ending wait took a toll on peace within the LJP which has been the target of the Bihar chief minister. Kumar first checkmated LJP when its lone MLA joined the JD(U) in April. Now, Chirag’s uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras revolted against him and has been elected as the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha. The Lok Sabha Secretariat yesterday recognised Paras as the leader of the LJP in the House, a day after the five MPs informed Speaker Om Birla about their decision. JD(U) leader RCP Singh reacted to the split in the LJP saying “You reap what you sow”.

Many have seen the rumblings within the LJP as the outcome of Chirag’s relentless campaign against Kumar during the Bihar polls, just when his uncle took an opposite stand. Paras termed CM Nitish Kumar ‘vikas purush’ (development-oriented man) highlighting the deep fault lines within the party. Paras claimed that almost every worker of the LJP was unhappy with the turn of events in Bihar as Paswan led his party against the JD(U) and it fared poorly in the 2020 assembly polls. Paras said his group will continue to be part of the BJP-led NDA, and added that Paswan can remain in the organisation.

Paras had long been unhappy with Paswan’s style of functioning and was joined by other MPs, including Chandan Singh, Veena Devi and Mehboob Ali Kaiser, as they believed that his campaign against Nitish Kumar had left them at a disadvantage in the state’s politics. Kaiser has been elected the party’s deputy leader.

Reports claim that Nitish Kumar has been working to isolate Paswan since the 2020 assembly polls where the LJP president targeted the Bihar CM and kept praising Narendra Modi. Paras denied the charge that Kumar’s party had a role in the split. However, the revenge against Chirag wasn’t the sole reason for the coup which was silently orchestrated by Nitish. The Bihar CM has a smart calculation in the LJP rebellion that left Chirag lonely and out in the cold. If the rebel LJP leaders agree to ditch the party and merge with the JDU, it will allow Nitish to command a better deal in cabinet berths besides helping the JD(U) regain lost base among Dalit and OBC Muslims. Nitish Kumar’s decision to allow Upendra Kushwaha to merge his Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) with Janata Dal (United) was also part of the same plan. Kushwaha united with JD(U) in March this year.

With buzz growing about a reshuffle in the Union cabinet, reports claim that the development may thwart Paswan’s chances of rejoining the NDA government and help Nitish get a good bargain with the BJP.

The equation between the BJP and the JD(U) has been far from smooth despite both parties sharing power in Bihar, and Kumar has been taking various measures to bolster his party’s strength after suffering a setback in the assembly polls.

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