Chirag Paswan, lately facing an open backlash from ally BJP to his criticism of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, said today that he felt "hurt" at comments by BJP leaders but insisted that his goal remained to establish a government with the BJP after elections in the state. The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader, warned off by the BJP against using Prime Minister Narendra Modi's image in his campaign, also described himself as "Hanuman" to the PM's Ram.
"I don't need photos of PM Modi. He is in my heart. Much like Hanuman's devotion for Ram, if you cut open my heart you will find only Modi-ji," Chirag Paswan, 37, declared dramatically.
It was Nitish Kumar who needed the PM's photos more, he sneered, since he was "insecure".
The LJP MP, in mourning after his father and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan's death last week, also shared that Nitish Kumar had snubbed him and not expressed condolences to him even once.
He said when Ram Vilas Paswan's body was flown from Delhi to Patna, Nitish Kumar was at the airport to pay tribute but did not acknowledge him. "I touched his feet and he ignored me. Everyone saw that," he said.
"I am shocked that because of our personal feelings, we even forget basic shishtachar (courtesy)."
Chirag Paswan said the Chief Minister had "not said a word" to either him or his mother since his father's death. He remarked that he had hoped it would not be this way, given that Paswan senior and Nitish Kumar were old associates.
"Everyone met me and my mother and condoled his death. The Chief Minister has not said one word since papa died. The PM spoke to me on the phone the day he died and came the next day. He kept his hands on my shoulder for a long time…I still remember his reassuring words," said Mr Paswan.
After the Patna airport incident, said the actor-turned-politician, he had met Nitish Kumar two more times. "Ïn the assembly he did not even look me in the eyes. And at a tribute meeting later, I went to him with folded hands, I became a little emotional...yet Nitish Kumar was unmoved. He still said nothing," said the LJP leader.
Chirag Paswan's move to contest the Bihar polls separately from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and fight Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United (JDU) has left the BJP caught between two fighting allies.
For the Bihar election, the BJP has decided to side with Nitish Kumar, though it says Chirag Paswan remains an ally at the centre. Yesterday, Mr Paswan said he had shared his intention to fight Nitish Kumar with BJP leaders including Amit Shah. He also let loose a fresh set of barbs at the Chief Minister, calling him arrogant and accusing him of insulting his father.
The response came from the BJP today.
"Chirag Paswan has chosen a separate path in Bihar; he is trying to mislead people by taking the names of senior BJP leaders. We don't have any B or C team. NDA will get three-fourth majority. Chirag's party will be left as a vote-cutter party," Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said today.
Another BJP leader, Bhupinder Yadav, said: "Chirag Paswan's comments on the NDA and Nitish Kumar are extremely unfortunate. He contested the Lok Sabha election as part of this alliance and became an MP. In February he was praising the Bihar government to the skies! What happened in six months? Because of his vested interests, he is indulging in the politics of lies."
Mr Paswan said his father would have been upset, had he heard these comments. "I know Sushil Modi (BJP leader and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister) is being instigated by the Chief Minister as he is insecure," he said.
He pointed out that this was not the first time that NDA allies were fighting each other in polls. "The JDU contested against the BJP in Gujarat and Jharkhand," he said.
The LJP leader also responded to the JDU's taunt on using Nitish Kumar for his Lok Sabha campaign last year. "The JDU's leaders opposed us during the campaign. Everywhere we were betrayed - in Jamui, Hajipur, Vaishali and Nawada. My father used to call the Chief Minister everyday, until we realized Nitish Kumar was telling people to defeat LJD.