Chirag Paswan dodges queries about prospects at Centre; continues tirade against Nitish
Patna, Jan 19: Lok Janshakti Party chief Chirag Paswan on Tuesday dodged queries about the likelihood of his joining the Union council of ministers, in which his party has been left with no representation following the death of his father Ram Vilas Paswan.
Paswan, however, remarked tongue in cheek that the government at the Centre was doing fine and it was the Bihar cabinet headed by Nitish Kumar where ministers were saddled with too many portfolios and an expansion was much needed.
The LJP chief was talking to reporters upon his visit to the state after a long time. His father, who had founded the party two decades ago, died in October last year and in the ensuing by-election to his Rajya Sabha seat, the BJP chose to field its veteran leader and former Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi.
Paswan had said that the seat, though held by his father, 'belonged to the BJP' to which he professes to remain loyal despite having pulled out of the NDA ahead of the assembly elections last year.
His party had claimed that the young leader was expecting a berth in the Union council of ministers since the party's rebellion had damaged Nitish Kumar's JD(U) but helped the BJP emerge as the 'big brother' in the NDA in Bihar.
On Monday, Kumar had hinted that expansion of the new cabinet, which was formed in November, was likely in near future. His remark came a day after he met top leaders of the state BJP at his official residence where differences arising out of contesting claims by alliance partners have supposedly been ironed out.
Nonetheless, Paswan squarely blamed Kumar for the delay in cabinet expansion and alleged that the chief minister has of late been too busy with the affairs of his party which has undergone a major overhaul.
Kumar himself relinquished the post of the national president, more than a year before the end of his tenure, and got his close aide RCP Singh appointed in his place.
A couple of weeks later, veteran socialist leader and Rajya Sabha MP Vashishtha Narayan Singh also expressed the desire to step down citing old age and unstable health. Former MLA Umesh Kushwaha was appointed to the post.
The developments have been seen as an attempt by Kumar to consolidate his support base among the Kurmi-Koeri-Kushwaha caste combine, known as 'Luv-Kush' in Bihari political lexicon, in a bid to retain sufficient bargaining power while negotiating with the BJP which appears to have gained an upper hand.
Paswan, who has in less than a year emerged as one of the most virulent detractors of Kumar, however, charged that all this showed that 'the party, and not the state, is the top priority for our chief minister'.
'This is happening at a time when law and order is in a mess and the chief minister holds the Home portfolio. Even well-heeled, well-connected people are being murdered,' Paswan said in an apparent reference to the recent killing of Rupesh Kumar Singh, a senior official of a private airline, which has triggered shock waves in Patna and outrage among political figures many of whom he was said to be friends with.
The LJP chief, however, said, 'We have made it clear that we will not be doing anything drastic till this new government completes six months. Thereafter, taking into account its achievements and failures, we will launch our programme.'