Modi's New Cabinet: How Will Future of JD(U) & LJP Play Out in Bihar?

LJP's Chirag Paswan received his first bitter lesson when uncle Pashupati Paras was sworn in as cabinet minister.

4 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>As Prime Minister Narendra Modi began preparations to expand his cabinet, Nitish made his moves. The LJP split and Pashupati Paras claimed the support of five of the party’s six MPs and Chirag Paswan was isolated.</p></div>

LJP outcast Chirag Paswan received his first bitter lesson in the ruthless craft of politics when his uncle Pashupati Paras was sworn in as cabinet minister in the Modi government as successor to his late father Ram Vilas Paswan.

It should have been Chirag, right?

As Ram Vilas Paswan’s son and heir, the 38-year-old film star-turned-politician was confident that he would get dibs. Besides, hadn’t he proved his worth to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah as the showboy in last year’s assembly polls?

It was his aggressive anti-Nitish Kumar campaign that helped them cut their troublesome ally and Chief Minister to size, and tilt the power axis in their favour.

Had Ram Vilas Paswan been alive to advise his son, he probably would have told Chirag not to be so naïve. Politics is cut-throat business in which nobody seeks or does any favours. Ram Vilas managed to set a record of being a cabinet minister in every government at the Centre since 1991 only because of his canny political sense, not because of handouts or indulgences.


Chirag Has a Worthy Opponent in Nitish Kumar

The elder Paswan would've probably also warned his son to beware of Nitish Kumar, who is known in political circles as a dangerous and cunning enemy. Nitish may be half the leader he used to be, and circumscribed by the BJP today, but even from his gilded cage, he was determined to see Chirag punished for playing with the established power dynamic in Bihar.

As Modi began preparations to expand his cabinet, Nitish made his moves. The LJP split and Pashupati Paras claimed the support of five of the party’s six MPs. Chirag was isolated.

But the unkindest cut of all, was that the BJP did not lift a finger to help him regain control of the party his father had founded. Nitish managed to ensure that much.

He also ensured that Pashupati would be picked for a cabinet berth and not Chirag.

It is interesting that Nitish was so driven by the desire for revenge that he gave up on his earlier demand for two cabinet posts and two posts of Minister of State for his party. Instead, he settled for one ministerial position for his trusted lieutenant RCP Singh.

He has probably left many in his party dissatisfied and restless, especially Rajiv Ranjan Singh, also known as Lallan Singh, who was hoping to become a cabinet minister.

Any residual angst in the JD(U) as a result of the cabinet expansion can only help the BJP in its aspirations of becoming the dominant force in Bihar and taking over Nitish’s vote base of marginalised backward castes.

Hence, the strong emphasis on caste, community and region in Modi’s first big cabinet makeover since he swept back to power for a second term in 2019.

Lalu Prasad Yadav's Anticlimactic Return

The games in Bihar are only just beginning.

State politics is churning with new alignments in the offing, and an entire generation of leaders who have dominated the state landscape for over 30 years are fading into the winter of their lives.

However, the most telling evidence of the shifting political sands was the damp squib re-entry of Lalu Prasad Yadav into Bihar’s public life. His attempt to make a splash with a hard-hitting speech against the Modi government on RJD’s foundation day created hardly any ripples except among committed Lalu supporters.

Lalu’s trademark effervescence and witticism were missing. Age, ill health and incarceration are taking their toll. He is sharp enough to understand his growing irrelevance in today’s times, which is why he made it a point to praise his son Tejaswi and assure his party that it was in good hands. “Naiyya paar lagayi,” he said, delivering a vote of confidence in his son’s leadership abilities.

It is difficult to imagine Bihar politics without the man who shaped its Mandal revolution and overturned centuries of oppressive domination by the upper castes. No ruling party can dare put in a Brahmin, Bhumihar or Thakur Chief Minister in the state today. But it is also difficult to imagine the state without Lalu’s counterforce, Nitish Kumar

Although they hail from the same political stream, Nitish chose to join hands with the BJP to oust Lalu and has managed to remain chief minister for four successive terms.

Will LJP-JD(U) Come Together in The Sons’ Generation?

But as the 2020 poll results showed, he too, is fading as a force. If a young political novice like Chirag Paswan could dent Nitish’s electoral fortunes, then maybe this Lohia stalwart should read the writing on the wall.

The other pillar of Bihar politics, Ram Vilas Paswan, the champion of social justice, has gone. The field is wide open for new forces and new faces.

It is interesting that after he was coldshouldered by the BJP, Chirag has turned to Tejaswi to build a common future. On the other side, the BJP is waiting to pick up Nitish’s vote base while consolidating its own traditional upper caste support.

Bihar will be faced with the question sooner or later: are Tejaswi and Chirag the inheritors of their fathers’ legacies? Or are people searching for a new force like the BJP to give the state the economic and social boost it so desperately needs?

The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist. She tweets @AratiJ. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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