|Paswan with mentor VP Singh|
Someone who shot into national limelight for rhetoric in favour of implementation of the controversial Mandal Commission report, from creating Guinness Book of World Records in 1989 for winning Hajipur seat with a margin of 470,000 votes and then losing out his pocket borough Hajipur seat in 2009, Ram Vilas Paswan has seen it all.
On Monday, September 14, 2015, when Amit Shah announced seat sharing deals for NDA allies for Bihar polls, sitting next to BJP chief, a visibly miffed Paswan knew he has been forced to bite the bullets.
The union Food Minister Paswan, who also holds the unique record of working under all Prime Ministers since H D Deve Gowda, also had to share dais with Hindustan Awami Morcha (HAM) leader Jitan Ram Manjhi, a Mahadalit leader.
Paswan is the only Indian politician who has the distinction of serving under every Prime Minister as their Ministerial colleague since 1996 – H D Deve Gowda, I K Gujral, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Dr Manmohan Singh and at present under Narendra Modi.
For records, Paswan knows the political reality of circa 2015 and is hence not complaining publicly. "This seat adjustments is not for any one or two parties.We in the LJP have always maintained that the seat adjustments should be seen in larger interest of NDA. My sole purpose in these elections is to ensure the defeat of JD(U)-RJD-Congress combine," Paswan told reporters minutes after the big announcement by BJP president.
However, Paswan-led LJP, which was given 40 out of 243 seats is now seeking a few more additional seats from the BJP kitty.
Paswan and his son Chirag, the latter a self-confessed admirer of PM Narendra Modi, have practical problems at hands. The former state chief minister Manjhi, who has emerged as a prominent Mahadalit face in the caste-sensitive Bihar polls, today threatens to eat up the 'Dalit space' of Bihar politics - which for long at least in theory stood as a monopoly for Paswans.
Dalits constitute 15 per cent of Bihar's electorate and out of these 31 per cent comprising chiefly of Dalit sub-castes like Manjhi, Doms, Chamars, Ghasi and Rajwar, BJP sources said adding the Dalit-Maha Dalit factor is vital to defeat the RJD-JD(U)-Congress alliance.
While roping in Mahadalit leader Manjhi into the NDA has helped BJP's caste calculations, Paswan is upset at the kind of "importance" the saffron party gave to Manjhi, who is certainly "political lightweight" in the state.
The Mahadalit leader Manjhi was, however, wooed by RJD chief Lalu Prasad but he had made it clear he would not be part of any formation which includes his bete noire Nitish Kumar.
"We understand Paswan's position," a prominent leader from Bihar BJP said but added as a key alliance partner of NDA, Paswan appreciates the ground realities and political compulsions.
Thus, BJP sources say, "LJP understands politics very well and he cannot go against NDA or walk out of alliance at this juncture".
|Paswans with Amit Shah|
Even among a section of LJP, the reality has dawn as they know how once powerful Dalit leader Ms Mayawati-led BSP on the face of an aggressive 'pro-Modi and upper caste Hindu polarization' politics was reduced to mere zero in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls in UP.
Moreover, closer look suggests the Maha-dalit card and Jitan Ram Manjhi as an ally suits BJP politically also. "Manjhi is not only political light weight; compared to Paswan, HAM leader Manjhi is "friendless" in the national polity while Chirag Paswan has uncles and even aunts practically in all political parties," BJP sources said.
A seasoned parliamentarian and someone who knows national politics too well, in 1996, Paswan had even led the ruling alliance in the Lok Sabha as both the Janata Dal Prime Ministers Deve Gowda and I K Gujral were members of the Rajya Sabha.
Born on July 5, 1946, Paswan was elected to the Bihar state assembly in 1969 as a member of the Samyukta Socialist Party and in 1974 as a follower of Jai Prakash Narayan became the general secretary of the Lok Dal. He was also personally close to the prominent leaders of anti-emergency period like Karpuri Thakur and Satyendra Narayan Sinha. In 1975, when emergency was clamped, Paswan was put behind bars for the entire period. After release, in 1977, he became a member of the newly created umbrella party Janata Party and won election to the Lok Sabha for the first time. He was re-elected to the 7th Lok Sabha in 1980.
|Lalu-Paswan relation has moved with political weather|
Committed to work for Dalits, in 1983, Paswan floated the Dalit Sena, a non-political organization for emancipation and welfare of the Dalits and the underpriveleged. And since then he has undertaken several initiatives including international conferences of Dalits and Muslims in New York.
Paswan was re-elected to the 9th Lok Sabha in 1989 on Janata Dal ticket and was appointed Union Minister of Labour and Welfare in the Vishwanath Pratap Singh-led country’s first coalition National Front government. He has been a member of Lok Sabha since then till 2009 without break returning from Hajipur.
But in 2009 he lost the seat when Maha Dalit card was played against him.
Traditionally BJP claims support base of about 18 per cent upper castes and around 6 per cent Baniyas (traders) and now the party strategists feel the presence of LJP of Paswan and Jitan Manjhi’s new party could be a big game-changer.
But BJP is also careful about Paswan's politics of Midas touch and reportedly PM Modi has deputed ministers like Giriraj Singh, Ananth Kumar and Ravi Shankan Prasad to placate him.
"Paswan has always successfully played his political billiard tactfully. His tactics always helped him to struck cord with the formidable and winning alliance and he did pretty well to ensure that he is on the winning side," a BJP source said lauding the Food Minister's mastery in reading the political pulse.
In 2002, it was Paswan - the then lone Minister under Atal Behari Vajpayee, who had raised the bogey of Gujarat riots, and had walked out of the ministry. "Paswanji reads politics very well. He had resigned in 2002 protesting anti-Muslim riots and practically that was the day, Sonia Gandhi had set the ball rolling for creating UPA," LJP source said.
In the subsequent polls in 2004, BJP-led NDA was handed over a shocking defeat.