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Will Chanakya opt for Chirag?

By ASMITA BIHARI
Last updated on: September 11, 2020 13:53 IST
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Chirag Paswan is young. He is articulate. He has no political baggage.
All he needs is Chanakya's blessing, observes Asmita Bihari.

IMAGE: From left: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, Lok Janshakti Party President Chirag Paswan and Union Home Minister Amit Anilchandra Shah. Photograph: PTI Photo

There have been signs of late to suggest that Chirag Paswan could be the hidden card that today's Chanakya has up the sleeve of his handloom kurta for the land of the original Chanakya.

The incessant targeting of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar by the Lok Janshakti Party and by the younger Paswan in the days leading up to the assembly election in the state have become vociferously pronounced.

The LJP threat to contest the Bihar assembly election solo and not as part of the National Democratic Alliance, which includes Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal-United and the Bharatiya Janata Party, is the LJP's current writing on the wall.

Working on a list of LJP candidates for 143 constituencies in Bihar is part of this strategy.

A courageous and aggressive number considering the LJP only contested 42 seats in the 2015 assembly election.

Historically, there has never been a pre-poll alliance between the JD-U and the LJP.

Not in 2005, not in 2010, not in 2015.

The JD-U has also categorically denied any alliance with the Paswans's party for the forthcoming assembly election.

If you consider the voting pattern based on caste, Chirag seems to fit the bill for an alternate and opposing option to the BJP's core vote bank, upper caste Hindus.

The Chanakya niti here would be to marry these two historically opposite ends of the caste spectrum.

The timing of this will be crucial, as any pre-poll announcement based on this strategy may be detrimental to both sides.

This may also be the reason for Chirag Paswan to cozy up to former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi.

Instructions have reportedly been issued to the LJP rank and file to refrain from attacking Manjhi, even though the senior Dalit leader returned recently to shelter under the JD-U umbrella.

The chatter on the ground in Bihar favours the NDA, the anti-incumbency curse being shouldered by Nitish Kumar alone.

There is a slight undercurrent in favour of a double-engine government sans Nitish Kumar.

If not Nitish Kumar in that unlikely scenario, then who?

There are the young guns, Tejashwi Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Chirag Paswan.

Tejaswi has brief experience in government; he has been leader of the Opposition in the Bihar assembly since Nitish Kumar broke the RJD-JD-U alliance and opted for the BJP.

But the perils of the RJD jungle raj -- when Tejashwi's parents Lalu Prasad Yadav and Rabri Devi ruled Bihar -- has not been forgotten even after 15 years and Nitish Kumar leaves no opportunity to remind Biharis of the same.

As he did when he launched his election campaign for Bihar 2020 on Monday, September 7.

Which brings us to Chirag Paswan.

Chirag's inexperience in holding government office takes nothing away from his potential.

His father, after all, is Ram Vilas Paswan, the Great Survivor of contemporary Indian politics.

An adroit practitioner of realpolitik, the elder Paswan is a rare Cabinet minister in both the Vajpayee and Modi BJP governments, the latter with only 6 LJP seats won in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and 2 seats won in the 2019 general election.

As LJP president, Chirag has kept his political options open and held the cards close to his chest.

Some political observers believe his recent griping against Nitish Kumar and his proclaimed plan to draw up a list of candidates for the assembly election is a gambit to get more seats for the LJP to contest.

Unlike Tejashwi who still has the RJD poll machine at his command despite the recent defections by party MLAs to the JD-U, Chirag has a smaller political base to work with.

If the BJP revisits its relationship with the JD-U, based on the numbers each party wins in the coming election and the numbers required to form a government, they could end up dumping Nitish Kumar -- who has a reputation for being an unreliable ally -- and have a chief minister that Chanakya can control.

Chirag Paswan has a lot going for him in that eventuality. He is young. He is articulate. He has no political baggage.

All he needs is Chanakya's blessing.

Asmita Bihari is a non resident Bihari.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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