‘NDA is stronger in Bihar now’: Chirag Paswan

The Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) president says his priority is to make Narendra Modi Prime Minister for the third time.

Published : Apr 13, 2024 12:55 IST - 8 MINS READ

Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) president Chirag Paswan.

Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) president Chirag Paswan. | Photo Credit: Manvender Vashist Lav/PTI

Chirag Paswan, the son of the late Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, is a prominent Dalit leader from Bihar, and a key ally of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). After battling a crisis when five of his party’s Lok Sabha members, including his uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras, deserted him, Chirag seems to have made a strong comeback in the NDA; he has secured five Lok Sabha seats, while his uncle’s camp received none. In the run-up to the first phase of the Bihar election on April 19, junior Paswan has addressed numerous election rallies alongside Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. In a candid conversation at his residence in Patna, Chirag Paswan spoke to Frontline about his struggles, the unfolding politics in Bihar.


You have been in Patna for almost a week now and have addressed rallies for the NDA. How do you rate the prospects of the NDA in Bihar?

In 2019, we were only three parties—the BJP, the Janata Dal (United), and my party. Together we won 39 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats. This time we are five parties. We have two more strong parties in our alliance, Manjhi ji’s party [Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM)] and Upendra Kushwaha ji’s Rashtriya Lok Morcha (RLM). The NDA is stronger. This makes my belief stronger that we will win all 40 seats.

The NDA has too many leaders with a history of conflicts with each other. Will that prove counterproductive for the alliance?

The way the whole alliance has shaped up in terms of seat sharing, I think, it has been done very amicably. Our priorities are very clear. We need to put the priority of the alliance before the priorities of the parties.

Also Read | Nitish Kumar’s opportunistic alliance with BJP could hurt INDIA bloc’s OBC strategy in Bihar

You launched the “Bihar First Bihari First” campaign and took on Nitish Kumar. Upendra Kushwaha also launched a campaign against falling education standards in the State under Nitish Kumar’s rule. Have those differences been ironed out?

Yes, it is important for each ally to iron out their differences. Right now, everyone has to come honestly on one platform to serve the larger interest for which we are here, which is to make sure our Prime Minister leads the country for the third time. Having said that, I have personally not launched any campaign against my Chief Minister. My campaign “Bihar First, Bihari First” was to make my State developed and I still back it very strongly. That is my vision for Bihar. That will be addressed at the time of the Assembly election. Now our focus is about what this election does for the Prime Minister.

In the 2020 Assembly election, you fielded a large number of candidates against Nitish Kumar’s JDU, and then there were some differences between you and your uncle, Pashupati Kumar Paras ji. Do you think now everything has been sorted out?

The kind of strict caste equations used to see a few decades ago, I do not see that now, especially among younger people. Caste lines, religious lines, I see those fading away. I think 2014 was the beginning of this. In 2014, people came out of the caste, region, religion barriers to support the Prime Minister. My vision is for Bihar and Bihari. It is not for forward Bihari, backward Bihari, Dalit Bihari, or Muslim Bihari.

You are a second-generation politician in your family. Do you see any changes in Bihar politics, which was said to be all about caste? 

I think eventually the borders are fading away. The kind of strict caste equations that we used to see a few decades ago, I do not see that happening now, especially among the younger lot across caste lines, across regions, across religious lines. I see that fading away. And I think 2014 was the beginning of this. In 2014, people for once came out of their caste barrier, region, religion barrier to come and support my Prime Minister. Eventually and gradually, we see that happening now. In my election, my cadre, my support base is from across caste and religious lines. My vision is also for Bihar and Bihari. My vision is not for forward Bihari, backward Bihari, Dalit Bihari, or Muslim Bihari. It is for the 13 crore people of the State. So yes, gradually I see that fading away.

How would you like to identify yourself? As a Dalit leader, a youth leader?

A youth leader, a Bihari. My reason for entering politics was my State. I was working in Mumbai, and very closely I saw the ways Biharis were beaten up there, the way they were humiliated; the name “Bihari” itself had become an abusive word. These things used to bother me at a personal level. I spoke to my father, and I decided to come back to my State, to stay here and work for my State. This is the reason that on all my social media, you will see “Yuva Bihari” attached to my name. This is the reason why in my ticket distribution, you will see the majority of my candidates are young faces. If you see my team, there are young, educated faces. That is the kind of image I want to portray in front of the country, in front of the world—that Biharis are educated, well-learned, articulate people who can articulate their thoughts properly.

There is a lot of noise around the caste census. Nitish Kumar carried out a caste survey last year. Does it have any resonance on the ground?

I have supported caste census for long, and I do believe you need to have the data available with you, and there are reasons for that. Often you have schemes that are planned, designed as per the population of a particular group. Often courts have also asked for the data of a particular caste, and we do not have reliable data on hand. So definitely for the government to function and for the beneficiaries, and for you to know the number of beneficiaries of a particular scheme for a particular group, you need to have that data.

The employment issue has gained traction recently, with questions about the Modi government’s performance on job creation. In Bihar, the recruitment of teachers is being discussed, with both Tejashwi Yadav (RJD) and Nitish Kumar (CM) claiming credit. How do you see this situation?

Employment is and always should be the biggest agenda for any election. We see the way the population is increasing in our country. Jobs are something that we need to generate on a regular basis. You can’t say that we have given so many jobs in one year and that is it. We are done with it. No. It was just a decade ago when my Prime Minister started campaigning. He used to address 125 crores of us, but today it is 140 plus crores of us. So, the population is increasing rapidly and one needs to continuously work on this. Yes, I believe that our Prime Minister has a vision. There are many startups that have been successful and many more will follow. India is a young country. The majority of us are below the age of 35 and it is in the interest of all of us to keep it a priority.

In Bihar, NDA leaders cite their 2019 Lok Sabha victory, but the 2020 State election saw RJD emerge as the largest party. RJD has now added Mukesh Sahani’s VIP to their existing alliance with Congress and the Left. How do you look at the opposition?

I don’t see the opposition alliance in Bihar as being anywhere close to our (NDA) strength in terms of cadre base and supporters. People’s faith in PM Modi is a major guarantee not just for Bihar but the whole country. While I never underestimate any alliance, I’m confident the people don’t believe in the opposition anymore after their failed attempts at unity. The opposition parties are also fighting each other in various states, which makes me doubt this alliance will shape up smoothly. I believe the people of my State will not trust this opposition alliance in the general election.

Also Read | ‘The BJP is treating politics as a business’: Jagadanand Singh

The BJP is accused of intimidating the opposition and undermining institutions. Two opposition CMs are in jail. The opposition calls this an undeclared Emergency.

Look who’s talking! When they say that you are finishing democracy, it is actually they who finished democracy during the Emergency. Those who claim that this government will finish the Constitution are the ones who have been repeatedly accused of making amendments and changes to the Constitution. Regarding allegations of undermining and misusing institutions like the ED and CBI, the first time I heard of the CBI being a “tota” (parrot) was from a CBI officer. So, all governments face such allegations. But I have total faith in judiciary. Even if somebody tries to frame a person, if the person is innocent, they will come out clean through the judicial process.

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