"We Stayed When Nitish Kumar Left": Chirag Paswan's Reminder For BJP

Chirag Paswan - who called the fight for control of LJP a "Mahabharata" - accused Nitish Kumar of working to split the party by dividing Paswan community votes

'We Stayed When Nitish Kumar Left': Chirag Paswan's Reminder For BJP

LJP chief Chirag Paswan is to hold a roadshow in July to demonstrate popular support (File)

Patna:

LJP chief Chirag Paswan has accused Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of an "anti-Dalit mindset" and of "mistreating Dalits within his own party". Speaking to NDTV.com, he also admitted it is hard to believe the coup happened without top BJP leaders being aware, particularly since the leader (and uncle) Pashupati Paras let slip last week he might "take oath as a union minister".

The LJP, under Chirag Paswan, was the 'x-factor' in last year's election; the cutting of JDU votes helped the BJP emerge as the main power in the ruling NDA, and there was speculation the smaller party was the BJP's 'plan B' to reduce Nitish Kumar's influence - something the party denied.

The denials didn't change the fact the BJP was seen as benefitting from the turn of events - winning 21 more seats than it did in 2015, while the JDU lost 28. Mr Paswan's LJP won just one seat but he claimed a moral win, saying he had "achieved" what he set out to do - to make the BJP stronger.

And as he battles to keep control of his late father Ram Vilas Paswan's party, Chirag Paswan had a gentle reminder for the BJP of the support it had received from the LJP in the past.

"... should not forget we joined hands with them after PM Modi's name was announced (the JDU-BJP broke up ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election) old allies like Nitish left them and it was Paswan voters who turned the table... six per cent Dalit votes are still firmly with us," he said.

nmuqk99o

"See how he treats Dalits within his own party": Chirag Paswan hit out at Nitish Kumar (File)

Last year to emphasise his support of the BJP, Mr Paswan made this dramatic statement: "...like Hanuman's devotion for Ram, if you cut open my heart you will find only Modiji".

Bihar's Paswan community is the core base for the LJP and the relative power of that base was highlighted in last year's poll; it won just one seat but, by fielding candidates against every JDU nominee, it wound up eating into its vote share and leaving it second-best against the BJP.

That base still backs Chirag Paswan over Pashupati Paras, a poll of LJP leaders by the BJP suggests, and Mr Paswan has accused Nitish Kumar of trying to break up the party by dividing those votes.

"If you see the political journey it is clear... he has been splitting the Lok Janshakti Party since February 2005, when 27 were elected on our ticket," he told NDTV.com.

kl5vfo4o

Chirag Paswan with his uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras (File photo)

Referring to the creation of the Mahadalit sub-group in 2006, he said: "That shows his mindset as it was primarily to isolate Paswans and Jatav." He made similarly critical comments last year, just before he pulled his party from any alliance with the JDU.

"See how he treated Dalits in his own party, including the unceremonious way Jitan Ram Manjhi was thrown out of power... I will expose the true face of Nitish Kumar and inform Dalits, especially in Bihar, during my roadshow, which will be across all Assembly constituencies," he said today.

A Chirag Paswan roadshow is expected next month as a display of strength and to underline his status as the political heir of the Ram Vilas Paswan and leader of the LJP.

The squabble for control of Ram Vilas Paswan's party, and legacy, erupted last week after five LJP MPs - including the former Union Minister's younger brother and coup leader Pashupati Paras - asked the Lok Sabha Speaker to recognise them as a separate group

The next day, the rebels removed Chirag Paswan as party chief in an "emergency meeting".

Mr Paswan has refused to go quietly into the night, calling himself a "sher ka beta" (son of a lion).