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Analysis | LJP shows signs of breaking ranks with the BJP ahead of polls

Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan and his son Chirag Paswan. File

Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan and his son Chirag Paswan. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

The key NDA ally has taken a host of steps to flex its muscles and chart its own identity in Bihar

With the Bihar Assembly elections just seven months away, the State’s political pot is boiling with stakeholders attempting new permutations and combinations. In the latest, key National Democratic Alliance ally, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) is showing signs of breaking free from its overbearing senior ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

LJP last year saw a generational change, with Ramvilas Paswan handing over the reins to his son Chirag Paswan. Now, according to sources, the son is trying to break out of the side-hero role that the LJP has been playing.

First ever

The party has taken a host of steps in this direction. To begin with, LJP’s State executive has identified 119 seats in Bihar that the party would like to contest. These 119 seats are at present held either by the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) or the Congress. Secondly, the LJP has started a membership drive. Currently, the party boasts of 20 lakh registered members. Thirdly, the party has started working on its manifesto — ‘Bihar First, Bihari First’. The manifesto will be launched on April 14 this year at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan. This is a first ever for the party. In the 2015 Assembly polls, it had come up with a manifesto after two phases of the elections were over.

All these exercises are aimed at achieving multiple goals. It’s a classic case of muscle flexing. In the 2015 Assembly elections, having hitched their wagon to the NDA, the LJP was derailed, along with rest of its allies, in the face of the RJD-Janata Dal-United (JD-U) mahagatbandhan (‘grand alliance’) tsunami. The LJP contested 42 seats and could win only two seats.

More claimants

This time around, with the JD(U) back in the NDA camp, there are more claimants for the seat pie. The LJP, being the juniormost partner, doesn’t want to be left behind.

“If we are not prepared well in advance, then the BJP could squeeze us in for merely 20-odd seats. More importantly, we want to ensure that we get seats where we have a shot of victory, unlike in 2015, when we were given the leftover seats,” a senior LJP leader said. The party is aiming for 42 seats that it fought last time, but senior leaders say that it would be willing to settle for 35.

It is a battle for the party’s identity, which the new leadership feels is lost entirely playing a junior partner in an alliance. “The LJP will never be considered an alternative till we strike out on our own,” the senior leader added.

Gambling berth

If the party does decide to part ways with the BJP in the State, it may have to give up on its Ministerial berth at the Centre. But this is a gamble that the party’s top leadership is willing to take.

The LJP was formed in 2000 and the only Assembly elections it fought solo, in 2005, won 29 seats in the Bihar Assembly, its highest tally ever. The party’s leadership feels that it would be better to go solo and than return to the NDA umbrella and contest in the shadow of the alliance.

“Even if we don’t take the final step towards divorce [from the NDA], we will be building our party for the future. We have to have a longer vision for the party,” another senior LJP leader quipped.

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 7:19:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/bihar-elections-2020-ljp-shows-signs-of-breaking-away-from-the-bjp-ahead-of-polls/article30932896.ece

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