Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Chirag Paswan on Saturday seemed to dismiss talk of a rift with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his Janata Dal (United) (JD(U)) ahead of Assembly elections later this year, declaring “I have no problem with the name of Nitish Kumar as the face of the NDA”.
Mr Paswan, whose criticism of the Chief Minister had raised doubts about the LJP fighting the election under Mr Kumar’s leadership, also said: “… I am okay with any Tom, Dick or Harry chosen by the BJP”.
He, however, told NDTV the alliance partners needed to agree on a common minimum programme that included his “Bihar First and Bihari First” campaign. Mr Paswan, 37, also said he was not willing to work on Nitish Kumar’s ‘seven resolves’ commitment; this had been announced ahead of the 2015 election.
The comments are being seen by many as a signal the younger Paswan is ready, for now, to give up on his plan to go solo. Many have also interpreted them as a sign he is unwilling to risk his ties with the BJP.
Chirag Paswan, whose father Ram Vilas Paswan is a Union Minister, has not shied away from taking pot shots at Nitish Kumar – on everything from flood management to the Covid pandemic and even the Sushant Singh Rajput case.
He also joined the opposition – the Rashtriya Janata Dal – in expressing concerns over holding Assembly polls amid the coronavirus outbreak. He has, however, been cautious about attacking the BJP.
The younger Paswan has made his chief ministerial ambitions clear; at a party meeting in June he said: “… I want to be the Chief Minister someday“.
His father has backed this play, declaring: “I firmly stand by all the decisions of Chirag“, and the LJP has authorised Chirag Paswan to decide on breaking away from Nitish Kumar and the JD(U) for this election.
That Nitish Kumar is upset with Chirag Paswan and the apparent positioning of the LJP was evident last month. JD(U) spokesman KC Tyagi attempted to distance the parties from each other, saying: “Our alliance is with BJP and Lok Janshakti Party is in alliance with BJP”.
The BJP, which has had to quell rumours and reports that it may replace Nitish Kumar as the leader of the alliance in the state (and the chief ministerial candidate), has begun informal seat-sharing talks.
Top leaders, including former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis – who will manage this campaign – and BJP National General Secretary Bhupendra Yadav, met Nitish Kumar at his residence today, sources said.
The election to the 243 assembly seats of Bihar is due in October-November. The tenure of the current assembly will end on November 29.