It’s rare among dynasties that dominate Indian politics to have a chosen son of the founder-leader reduced to naught. The late Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan’s son and heir apparent Chirag Paswan has just had the party, the LJP (Lok Janshakti Party) stolen from under his nose by his uncle Pasupati Kumar Paras. Five of the party’s six MPs have switched sides and removed Chirag as President of the party. Chirag is the sixth MP standing relatively alone.
In the Bihar assembly polls held in 2020 the LJP had won just one seat. Chirag had taken the risky strategy of cutting the votes of the JD(U) led by Nitish Kumar even as he did not technically leave the NDA. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, a long distance runner, who was humiliated by the BJP performing better in Bihar than his own party, has now wreaked his vengeance on Chirag who stands in a no man’s land. It’s worth remembering that Chirag critiqued the Chief Minister in more colourful language and words than the opposition led by another dynast, Tejashwi Yadav of the RJD. He was clearly playing the role of a vote cutter against the JD(U).
Chirag was at one stage seen as acting on behalf the BJP (as he kept praising Narendra Modi and abusing Nitish Kumar) that wanted the upper hand vis a vis it’s Bihar ally. But in the course of the multi phase election, the BJP got alarmed at the possibility of its CM candidate being undermined too much and reportedly tried to rein in the inexperienced Paswan. But the one time actor (Chirag had once acted in a flop film with Kangana Ranaut) would not change his script mid-stream. Perhaps he imagined he would be protected by the BJP as he was once by his father who passed away last year. But that was not to be and the national party has described the events in the LJP as an “internal matter”. They are believed to be going along with the line promoted by the CM of Bihar. Besides, there are five MPs that have abandoned Chirag and although he says he had “expelled” them, since the majority of the elected members have switched he’s left holding thin air and memories of a past when his father was alive and could always manage some ministerial berth or favour from whichever regime was in power in Delhi.
It would be interesting to see if one of the five LJP members are picked for a berth in the planned cabinet expansion of the Modi government about which there has been a buzz for over a week.
Dynasties have their own share of intrigue and palace politics, but mostly the chosen successors manage to hang in there. None fail as terribly as Chirag has. Uttar Pradesh’s former chief minister and SP leader Akhilesh Yadav too faced a challenge from an uncle, the wily Shivpal Yadav, but managed to come out on top. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had also faced competition from a cousin Raj Thackeray (who many once said was more like the party founder Bal Thackeray) but would eventually evolve into his own man and lead his party with strength and a shifting imagination. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin was chosen successor by his father M. Karunanidhi although brother M.K. Alagiri deeply resented it.
Today, both Raj Thackeray and Alagiri are not of any real political consequence and only useful as troublemakers for the section of the family that triumphed. In Bihar again it is well known that Tejashwi Yadav’s elder brother Tej Pratap resents not being the successor to Laloo Prasad Yadav’s party, but frankly he is just not up to it.
It is India’s most significant dynasty that seems to have no challengers from within the family or even the structure. The Gandhis seem to work as a unit and for all the failures placed at their door, this is a dynasty that faces no serious challenge although voices of discontent periodically pop up.
It is India’s most significant dynasty that seems to have no challengers from within the family or even the structure.
Chirag has not survived because his father is no longer there to protect him. Dynasties are created to keep the business of politics within the family and in most of the more successful transitions from one generation to the other, the patriarch-founder of the party has been around for some time to guide the offspring through choppy political waters. The late Karunanidhi and Bal Thackeray both chose Stalin and Uddhav respectively, while the two Yadavs of the Hindi belt, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Laloo Prasad Yadav, are still around to see their offspring launch their political careers in their lifetime.
Chirag that means flame/lamp has burnt out rather quickly in this round of political mud wrestling in his father’s party. The title of the movie he acted in with Kangana Ranaut was “Miley Na Miley Hum” (Perhaps you get me/ perhaps you don’t). It was one of those idiotic meaningless titles.