Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s ruling ally, the BJP, gave a further indication today that it is not on the same page with him where Chirag Paswan and his Lok Janshakti Party are concerned. The party made it a point to turn out in strength yesterday for the function in Patna that marked the death anniversary of Ram Vilas Paswan, while Nitish Kumar was conspicuous by his absence.
Today, a cabinet colleague of the Chief Minister issued a reminder of sorts. “Chirag Paswan is very much part of the NDA and will remain in the NDA,” Neeraj Babloo, the state’s minister for Environment and Forests told reporters.
The statement is being seen as a belated realisation on part of BJP that despite the split orchestrated by Nitish Kumar and a section of their own leaders to teach a lesson to Chirag Paswan, the alliance needs the Lok Janshakti Party.
For the BJP, it has now become clear that not just Paswan voters but also Dalits, by and large, continue to back Chirag Paswan in the ongoing family feud.
This is why the BJP leaders are making sure that despite the unofficial boycott call by Nitish Kumar and the rank and file of his party, key BJP leaders were present at the ceremony on Sunday.
A section of BJP leaders admitted in private that it was improper on part of Nitish Kumar to stay away and make sure that no one from the party went to pay tribute to Ram Vilas Paswan.
Still stung by his party’s abysmal performance in the state polls — which he attributes to Chirag Paswan’s rebellion against his leadership and the move to contest against JD(U) — Nitish Kumar and his partymen had skipped yesterday’s meet without citing any reason.
His office just released a one-line press release, saying he has paid his respects to the departed leader.
The move was a stark contrast to his former deputy, Sushil Modi, who flew in from Bengaluru to attend the ceremony, leaving his ailing son in hospital.
Not just Chirag Paswan, Leader of the Opposition Tejashwi Yadav also commented on the Chief Minister’s absence.
While Mr Paswan said it was Mr Kumar’s “personal choice”, Tejashwi Yadav pointedly remarked that the Chief Minister was like an uncle and that “courtesys must be observed”.
Today, the LJP passed a resolution condemning Nitish Kumar’s move to stay away from the function.
Since the assembly election held last year, Mr Kumar has made his displeasure with Chirag Paswan felt in multiple ways.
In June, the Lok Janshakti Party split, with the breakaway faction being led by Pashupati Paras, the younger brother of Ram Vilas Paswan who openly supported Nitish Kumar. Many said that the split was engineered by Mr Kumar.