Debating India

BIHAR DISSOLUTION

Beginning of the end for Paswan?

Tuesday 24 May 2005

NEW DELHI: Politics can be as fickle as a one-dayer and this is borne out by the sudden dip in the fortunes of steel minister and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan. As recently as on February 27, Paswan, savouring the success of 29 LJP candidates which marked his emergence as a factor in Bihar politics, boasted that he was going to play the kingmaker.

He went into a nosedive with a series of developments beginning early this month. The rebellion in the LJP began with almost all those who represented his success in adding an upper caste coat to his core constituency of Paswans threatening to walk out on him.

All the desperate manoeuvres that he tried could not even help delay the inevitable. When simmer came to boil on Saturday, Paswan did not even look in charge of the party that he helped found. A majority of the MLAs drifted towards the JD-U. Even those who stayed on, save his kin, were heeding the directives of LJP MP Surajbhan Singh who, by all accounts, is more closely aligned with Lalu Prasad.

It was a forlorn Paswan who decided to skip the cabinet meeting on Sunday night where the decision to recommend the dissolution of the Bihar House was taken.

The decline looks dramatic, but was built into the LJP experiment. The outfit, in fact, was an oddity. Though led by Paswan, its MLAs were drawn from among the upper castes. And while Paswan justified his decision to be part of the same cabinet as Lalu Prasad Yadav by citing secularism, the MLAs, elected on anti-RJD platform,could not care less. The pressure points were too many for the arrangement to last.

Paswan has tried to shrug off the fact that the party is over. But he will have to build it anew from scratch which is going to be a daunting task. He might find it difficult to attract the upper castes who are disappointed with him for not showing the spunk to walk out of UPA to help Bihar get rid of Lalu’s raj, real or proxy.

That means he will be without the magnet with which to draw in the Muslim votes - something that he was able to do in the last election with partial success and at a considerable cost to RJD.

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