Last week, political veteran and founder of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), Ram Vilas Paswan passed away. Right at the time when Bihar elections are approaching quickly, his son and two-time Lok Sabha MP Chirag Paswan will have to face an intense situation immediately after this personal and political loss.
Lately, Chirag walked out of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the state level, while still being part at the center. The decision was made after disagreements regarding the seat-sharing in the Bihar Assembly elections, and LJP’s opposition to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his party, the Janata Dal-United (JDU). There have been predictions that the BJP-LJP equation will ease out JDU post the elections. Many leaders who couldn’t get any ticket from the BJP, have joined the LJP on the promise of being fielded in the elections.
So, what is the LJP factor in Bihar?
From 2005, the decline in the popularity of the RJD in Bihar was visibly evident. At that time, LJP had a shot at the Chief Minister’s post in the state. the BJP and JD (U) were part of the NDA and the RJD and the Congress were part of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) – which was able to win a majority in the election, which marked the beginning of a decline in the RJD’s political fortunes in Bihar. Late Ram Vilas Paswan was offered the seat of Chief Minister by Nitish Kumar. There was no agreement between the two parties, and Ram Vilas Paswan declined the offer, and instead asked that a Muslim be made the Chief Minister of the state.
From the next election onwards, the number of seats that the LJP could win kept declining and it managed only 3 seats in 2010 and 2 seats in 2015. LJP’s alliance with the RJD in 2010 and the BJP in 2015, also saw the party contesting on a very small number of seats.
Ram Vilas Paswan, was the founder of the LJP was among the prominent Dalit leaders and probably the most important in Bihar. But the assembly seats reserved for the Scheduled Caste won by the party has been constantly coming down. Even in terms of vote share in contested SC reserved seats, the LJP fares worse than the three major parties – BJP, JD (U), and RJD– in the state. The vote share is a parameter to judge the party’s popularity among the Dalits because that’s also the vote base of the party since the beginning.
Considering the fact that the party only contested 11 seats since the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, and the party did not win any seats in 2010 and 2015 it is certain that the party does not have pockets of dominance in the state.
It is clear that the LJP has taken a big risk in deciding to contest outside the NDA in the forthcoming elections. If this drastic move will yield results can only be known after the results are declared on November 10. If it does not, things could really get difficult for the party and Chirag Paswan and his entire political career in the future.