Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday brushed off Chirag Paswan's accusation that his Janata Dal United was at the bottom of the split in the Lok Janshakti Party -- something the Paswan Junior has been alleging for days. "No role... There is nothing like that. There is no role. It is a matter that concerns them. They say something about us just to get publicity... we have no role," the Chief Minister told reporters on Tuesday.
Mr Paswan -- locked in a battle with his uncle Pashupati Paras over the control of the Lok Janshakti Party founded by his father -- has also accused Nitish Kumar of trying to break up the party by dividing the votes of the Paswan community, who have been the core supporters of his party. "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.
The JD(U), he even said earlier, was working to split the party even when Ramvilas Paswan was hospitalised last year, and alleged that a conspiracy was hatched recently behind his back when he was ill.
His denial, though, failed to convince Chirag Paswan's supporters, who said that the Chief Minister's close aide Lalan Singh, who is also the leader of the Parliamentary Party, Maheshwar Hazari, Deputy Speaker of Bihar Assembly and Sanjay Singh were present at the meetings or Paras camp in Delhi. Photos and videos of them are in in public domain, the Paswan camp claimed.
Initially, Mr Kumar -- still upset over the 'Chirag Paswan effect' in the state elections that pushed his party to the backseat and gave BJP the upper hand in the Bihar alliance -- was suspected to have played a big role in the split by the young leader's loyalists.
What sharpened suspicions was Pashupati Paras's open backing for the Chief Minister. It was one of the points that started the family feud. Pashupati Paras disapproved of his nephew's rivalry with Mr Kumar ahead of the state elections.
On his part, Mr Kumar – who suspected that the Paswan Junior's rebellion was at the behest of the BJP -- refused to have anything to do with him since. Sources said the Chief Minster made it clear that he did not want Chirag Paswan to be part of any meeting of the alliance, or have any relation with the BJP or the Centre.
Last week was marked by open war within the LJP, which started with five MPs of the party, including Mr Paras, asking the Lok Sabha Speaker to recognise them as a separate group. The rebel faction then removed Chirag Paswan as the party chief and named Suraj Bhan as interim president.
Mr Paswan responded by naming his right-hand man Raju Tiwari as the party's Bihar unit president. He has also announced a plan to hold a roadshow in Bihar on father's birth anniversary next month -- which is expected to be a display of popular support for him as the political heir of Ramvilas Paswan.