Deliberately or Inadvertently, Chirag Has Started a Fire in Bihar that May Alter State Politics for Years to Come

LJP chief Chirag Paswan during a meeting with party candidates via video conferencing on Wednesday. (PTI)

LJP chief Chirag Paswan during a meeting with party candidates via video conferencing on Wednesday. (PTI)

The young LJP president has sought to disrupt the status quo. He can emerge as a key player in state politics only if the old order makes way for the new.

Sumit Pande

The law of vicarious gains and collateral damages applies as much to life as politics. The twin-canons postulate that the by-products of Samudra Manthan may not necessarily bestow upon the contestants. The churning may benefit even non-participants and bystanders.

Anna Hazare for instance had the right non-political credentials to lead a campaign against corruption. The movement demolished many governments. The bystanders had appropriated the benefits emanating out of the India Against Corruption dharna at Jantar Mantar before Hazare returned and finally settled down in his village in Marathwada. The BJP comprehensively trumped the Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Arvind Kejriwal pulverised Sheila Dikshit. Kiran Bedi became the BJP’s candidate in Delhi. She later got posted to Puducherry as lieutenant governor.

Between 2005 and 2012, Congress stepped up the ladder with an aggressive pitch to recapture Uttar Pradesh under Rahul Gandhi and Digvijaya Singh. The grand old party lit the fire and stirred the pot. On one occasion, Mayawati and the BSP with a stronger organisational structure galvanised the anti-incumbency to romp home with a clear majority. Five years later in 2012, despite another determined bid, Akhilesh Yadav lunged forward to breast the tape.

The law of vicarious gains works best if the disaffection is triggered by someone within. The allegations sound more convincing. In Jharkhand last year for instance, old-timer Saryu Roy waited in Delhi to get his ticket cleared for the assembly polls. With no assurance from the leadership, he threw down the gauntlet to challenge CM Raghubar Das from Jamshedpur.

Roy won as an independent candidate against the chief minister. The political damage he inflicted on the BJP catapulted Hemant Soren to an absolute majority with ally Congress in Jharkhand.

In the Bihar elections, Chirag Paswan did a Saryu Roy to Nitish Kumar. The jury is still out in the media circles on whether the Paswan scion’s rebellion against Nitish Kumar is out of his own volition, or whether he is articulating what others in the alliance couldn’t. The next cabinet expansion at the Centre will end this suspense. The political leadership on either side of the divide, though, nurtured no confusion whatsoever on the turn of events.

Clarity apart, the relentless bombardment and allegations of scams and administrative incompetence, coming as it did from someone who continued to be part of the NDA at the Centre, is more damaging.

In fact, Chirag throughout the campaign was far more vituperative and personal in attacking Nitish Kumar than the leader of opposition Tejashwi Yadav. The BJP defended Nitish Kumar’s record as CM and maintained that the JD(U) chief would be the chief minister even if he were to get fewer seats than the saffron party.

Was the clarification born out of the possibility of the BJP emerging as the single-largest party in the alliance despite contesting fewer seats?

The premise is based on the political logic that the LJP would only damage the JD(U) while the BJP would emerge unscathed.

Saryu Roy set out to defeat Raghubar Das in Jharkhand. He won his election. But in the process the BJP old-timer inflicted far greater damage to the party he once helped find roots in the tribal state.

Bihar politics in the past two decades has been governed in a system of triad wherein Lalu Yadav commanded unflinching support of the 30 per cent electorate. The upper caste remained primarily with the BJP while Nitish Kumar brought in a chunk of 15 to 20 per cent votes.

Of the three, any two poles which joined hands were to pull together enough votes to relegate the third player to the margins or the opposition.

Chirag Paswan, consciously or otherwise, has sought to disrupt this status quo. He can emerge as a key player in state politics only if the old order makes way for the new. He has dimished and bruised Nitish Kumar to being a junior partner to the BJP. This will have a cascading effect in the state and national politics in the days ahead though LJP itself has ended up with just one MLA in the assembly.

By the law of vicarious gains and losses, BJP stands as a net winner and Nitish Kumar the net loser.

Paswan junior padded up for this election knowing fully well that he is not in for a 20-20 match. He has instead taken strike for 2025.

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