Political Turmoil in LJP: Why Does Tejashwi Yadav Need Chirag Paswan?
If Chirag joins RJD, it could change the political dynamics in Bihar and impact the social coalitions of NDA & UPA.
Chirag Paswan is launching an ‘ashirwad yatra’ from Hajipur in Bihar on Monday, 5 July, to regain lost political ground and bolster the claim that he represents the real Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).
Monday is late Ram Vilas Paswan’s birth anniversary and Chirag’s attempt is to showcase that he is the natural heir to his father’s rich political legacy.
Hajipur is Ram Vilas' home turf and is the Lok Sabha constituency of Chirag's uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras, with whom the LJP scion is engaged in a fight with to gain control over the party.
Monday, incidentally, is also the foundation day of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).
Tejashwi Yadav, who has been wooing Chirag of late, is planning to pay homage to Ram Vilas. The party program will be preceded by a short tribute to late LJP leader, as per sources.
Paswans and Yadavs Go a Long Way Back
The growing closeness between Tejashwi and his 'elder brother' Chirag is the talk of the town in Bihar political circles. Chirag is miffed with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for being a silent spectator in the tussle with his uncle.
Tejashwi, meanwhile, has lent an olive branch to Chirag, highlighting that their families have a long-standing relationship. He said that the Paswan scion has to take the crucial decision with regards to his ideological commitment.
Chirag has also reciprocated positively to Tejashwi's invitation to enter into a coalition with the RJD, reminiscing the close bond that his father had shared with Tejashwi’s father Lalu Prasad Yadav.
If Chirag switches sides, it could change the political dynamics in the state and impact the social coalition of the two alliances, National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
Chirag Feels Betrayed by Modi and BJP
Chirag has questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence over his ongoing dispute with his uncle. Calling himself 'Hanuman,' he said, "I am expecting my Ram (PM Modi) not to sit silently."
"At the hour of crisis that has come upon the LJP, it is expected that the saffron party would intervene and try to resolve the matter somehow. The silence of the BJP has certainly made me sad."Chirag Paswan, LJP Leader
Why Does Tejashwi Yadav Need Chirag Paswan?
In a tight contest he can tilt the scales in RJD’s favour
Tejashwi lost a hard fought election last year, with the NDA winning 125 seats and UPA 110 seats. Both the groups were almost tied in terms of vote share, at 37 percent to 38 percent.
LJP, which contested alone on half the seats in the state, bagged an impressive 5.7 percent vote share. Chirag provides Tejashwi with additional votes and a cushion.
Enjoys strong support amongst Paswans
Ram Vilas was considered as the undisputed leader of the Paswan community, that represents 6 percent of state population. LJP has proved in the past that it can transfer votes of this community to whichever party it ties up with.
LJP vote share has consistently been close to 6 percent and it has managed to get for its allies 50 to 70 percent of the community's votes. Even while contesting alone in 2020, LJP seems to have bagged around half of the community's votes.
LJP not only damaged JD(U)'s but also RJD’s prospects in 2020
LJP dented JD(U)’s prospects in 28 seats and was largely responsible for its decline in tally from 71 to 43 seats. However, what is not analysed is the fact that LJP damaged prospects of UPA candidates as well, in 32 seats, denying it a shot at government formation.
LJP candidates recorded more votes than victory margin in 73 seats, as shown below.
Broaden RJD’s social coalition
Inclusion of Chirag broadens the social coalition of RJD. Currently, its core voter base consists of Muslims and Yadavs, which comprise 31 percent of the population. With the addition of Paswan community votes, this goes up to 37 percent of the population.
On the other hand, NDA’s anchor voting segment, including upper castes, Kurmis, Kushwahas and Mahadalits, also account for 37 percent of the population.
This leaves both parties tied in terms of core support with the Most Backward/Extremely Backward Classes (24 percent of state’s population) emerging as kingmakers.
Get back its traditional vote bank
With the creation of the Mahadalit category out of the SCs, Nitish pocketed this vote block. With Ram Vilas in the NDA fold, the entire Scheduled Caste (SC) vote was firmly with BJP.
This SC vote bank earlier used to be with Lalu as he was considered the champion of Backward Classes and Dalits. With Chirag’s inclusion, RJD could be able to revive its old vote bank.
Chirag Could Prove to be Tejashwi's Lucky Charm
In its first state elections in Bihar in 2005, LJP won 29 seats with 12.6 percent vote share, leading to a hung Assembly. LJP didn’t back Rabri as chief minister despite pressure from Sonia Gandhi, leading to President’s Rule.
Six months later, NDA won the re-elections and Nitish ended the Yadav family rule of 15 years. LJP could win only 10 seats but its vote bank was intact, at 11.1 percent.
In a way, decline of RJD in the state started with Paswan leaving Lalu’s alliance in 2005.
Return of Chirag, who is down but not out, could prove to be lucky for Tejashwi in the next elections.
Both are young and charismatic leaders and have a long political career ahead. In terms of MPs and MLAs, Chirag may have lost support, but he has the backing of the national executive of the party and support of people. He is undoubtedly the natural heir of Ram Vilas.
The jodi coming together could reshape the politics of Bihar in a post-Nitish era.
(The author is an independent political commentator and can be reached at @politicalbaaba. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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