Don't Want to be Known as Dalit Leader, Times Have Changed: Chirag Paswan

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Don't Want to be Known as Dalit Leader, Times Have Changed: Chirag Paswan

File photo of LJP leader Chirag Paswan

Patna:  Chirag Paswan says he does not want to be known as a Dalit leader, the identity that his father Ram Vilas Paswan has used to craft a long and successful political career.

"The time of Bihar politics being about caste has gone," insists Mr Paswan, 33, as he deftly negotiates questions on reports of a tussle between his Lok Janshakti Party and another regional ally, Jitan Ram Manjhi, for prominence as the Dalit face of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA alliance in Bihar.

Unlike his father, he says, "I don't want to be known as that (a Dalit leader). That was a different time but now things have totally changed."

The actor turned politician, who played a lead role in a 2011 film, 'Miley Naa Miley Hum', also says that Bollywood beckons no more. When NDTV met him at the end of a dusty day of campaigning, the Lok Sabha member said, "I have given up on films, I love this too much."

Chirag is the chairman of the parliamentary board of the Lok Janshakti Party, an appointment last year that reportedly caused some serious heartburn in the party that his father founded and led so far. But Ram Vilas Paswan, a union minister in the BJP-led NDA government, has left no one in doubt about the importance of his son in party affairs.

Chirag Paswan led negotiations with the BJP for their strategic alliance both in Bihar and at the Centre and on seat sharing for the ongoing state elections and is also said to have played a major role in deciding the list of his party's 40 candidates.

Mr Paswan junior assesses that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pitch for development will win Bihar for their alliance.  

'Yes, we have to accept that Nitish Kumar ji has improved things in Bihar,' he says when asked about the changing environment in cities like Patna, and adds, "But people want more development and that is what Modiji is capable of giving."

'Before Modiji came, did anyone even dream of bullet trains? They kept thinking of 100 km per hour or 200 km per hour but Modiji set the bar much higher. That is what we need," he said.

He said young politicians from the opposite camp like Lalu Yadav's two sons Tejaswi and Tej Paratap, "are like my younger brothers". Before his party tied up with the BJP, it was a partner of Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal.

But Rahul Gandhi earned strong criticism from the young politician who blamed the Congress vice-president for his LJP's exit from the UPA.

 "Rahulji is not at all accessible, we asked for a meeting and waited three months, but never got it,' said Mr Chirag, adding that he never interacted with Rahul Gandhi in the time that his party was part of a Congress-led alliance.

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