After the demise of his father Ram Vilas Paswan, MP and National President of Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) Chirag Paswan has stepped into his father’s shoes. Post his father’s death, he walked out of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and later the Lok Janshakti Party split. In an exclusive interview with Organiser National News Coordinator Nishant Kumar Azad, Chirag Paswan spoke on speculation over his return to the NDA and political plans and his vision for the State. Excerpts:
RJD and JD(U) have come together to form a new Government in Bihar. How do you see this?
Immediately after the Bihar 2020 election results, I was the first to predict that Nitish Kumar would be leaving the NDA and rejoining the Mahagathbandhan. Nitish Kumar has bigger goals; in 2024, he will definitely project himself as the Prime Ministerial candidate against incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Nitish Kumar has always had issues with PM Modi ever since he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Looking at his track-record, it was obvious that he would leave BJP; he has betrayed people’s mandate, and because of him, people of my State are suffering, which bothers me. It is Nitish Kumar’s politics that is hampering development in Bihar.
In 2020, you walked out of the BJP-led NDA, primarily opposing Chief Minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar. But Nitish Kumar alleged that you were the B-team of the BJP?
Losers always blame others. When we questioned him on development in Bihar in the last 15 years, CM Nitish Kumar had nothing to show on the ground. He said, ‘ask your elders how Bihar was two decades ago’ and used to curse Lalu Yadav for Jungle Raj. But in 2015, he fought the election with the same Lalu ji. In the 2020 Assembly election, the people of Bihar showed him his place for his political opportunism.
I’m sure Bihar will have a mid-term election; Nitish Kumar will not be able to complete this tenure, and his party will not get a double-digit figure this time. Yet, Nitish Kumar will say Chirag Paswan is working as B-team of BJP. I’m only raising the issues of people. He is angry with me because I fielded my candidates against JD(U) and not against BJP in the 2020 polls. I fielded candidates against him because of his policies.
Nitish Kumar’s Saat Nischay Scheme is a big scam. For the overall development of the State, you need an IT sector, better education and health facilities, and work on per capita income. He never talks about these things; he is still working on the model made by the British, which is divide and rule. He has divided Bihar based on caste, i.e., Dalit-Mahadalit, Pichda-Atipichda.
“Nitish Kumar’s Saat Nischay Scheme is a big scam. The Niti Aayog data shows Bihar is at the bottom in terms of development, whereas it tops on crime and corruption”
The Niti Aayog data shows Bihar is at the bottom in terms of development, whereas it tops on crime and corruption. I had no issues with BJP, my alliance with BJP was made in 2014 when Nitish Kumar was not in power, and if he had an alliance with BJP, my father, Ram Vilas Paswan, who was a minister in Modi Cabinet, would never have joined hands with BJP. We always believed in the vision and the policies of Prime Minister Modi.
The problem started in 2017 when Nitish Kumar joined NDA. LJP leaders were not comfortable with this. He always tried to defame my father and my party. He always tried to break my MLAs and MLCs. To hurt us politically, Nitish Kumar deliberately kept the Paswan community out of the Mahadalit category. Nitish Kumar should self-introspect what wrongs he has done.
Do you believe that Nitish was behind the split in your party and caused the feud between you and your uncle, Pashupatinath Paras?
One hundred per cent. He is the one who is behind all this. He hated my father and me because we always worked and now working for the backward and deprived classes. He tried everything to create disturbances in my way but couldn’t succeed. So, he started interfering in my family affairs. He used all kinds of resources to destroy me, my family and my party..
“I’m sure Bihar will have a mid-term election; Nitish Kumar will not be able to complete this tenure, and his party will not get a double-digit figure this time”
With Nitish Kumar out of NDA, is there any chance of rapprochement with Pashupati Nath Paras? If you fight separately, will it lead to confusion in the minds of LJP followers?
Realignment is not my priority, now. I’m working hard for my party. Let me tell you that there is no confusion in the minds of LJP’s voters about whom they should support. The public is well aware of the working style and politics of my uncle and me. After the split of LJP, my party i.e. LJP (Ramvilas) carried out ‘Aashirwad Yatra’, and celebrated the ‘Sthapana Diwas’ of the party. Recently, we organised a three-day official event at Rajgir in which around 10,000 party cadres participated. Today, my only priority is to make my party stronger. After all, my decision doesn’t matter, as he had already said that the sun could rise from the west, but he will not join hands with me.
Anything can happen in politics. Nitish Kumar said he would never join hands with Lalu Yadav and vice versa, but they came together, then why can’t you go with your uncle?
In politics, ‘anything can happen’, but doesn’t hold true in the family. He insulted my mother and used absurd words against her. I cannot forget what he had said to us.
You were resentful of Nitish Kumar, and now he is no more in alliance with the BJP. Are there any plans to join hands with BJP again? In a recent interview, you said that BJP has no leadership in Bihar and vision for Bihar.
Now, my priority is only to make my party stronger, and there is no need for any alliance at the moment because there are no elections. By the way, I’ve no trust in alliances in Bihar as the mandate given to an alliance is not respected at all; you win with one party and form government with another. At the time of the election, I’ll think of an alliance with some party.
You have merged my two statements talking about BJP’s vision and leadership. My anger was, why the biggest party in the world, having a global leader like Narendra Modi, is so helpless in Bihar, having no leadership and policy working on the agenda of Nitish from 2017-2022. I asked several times to Bihar BJP leaders even before the Assembly polls 2020.
Once you said that you are ‘Hanuman’ of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and he stays in your heart. BJP went with your uncle and you had to vacate the official residence of your father.
I was not eligible for that bungalow; you need to be a man of different stature to be in that house. But I felt bad about how my family and I were forced to leave that house; photos of my father and idols of great personalities were thrown out. But the fact is, I had to leave that house one day, anyway.
“In politics, ‘anything can happen’, but doesn’t hold true in the family. My uncle insulted my mother and used absurd words against her. I cannot forget what he had said to us”
The crime graph has gone up in Bihar. Drug consumption is also on the rise after the failed liquor ban by Nitish Kumar. How do you see this?
Because of these failures only, I oppose Nitish Kumar. The liquor ban was one of the best decisions taken by the Nitish Government. I was in Opposition then, but I still appreciated this, which was necessary for Bihar. Liquor is the one reason behind domestic violence in the rural areas of Bihar, as there is a lack of education, and people do not know in what quantity they should intake.
But this policy of Nitish Kumar also foundered, as it led to the smuggling of alcohol and production of liquor at the panchayat level. 1000s died because of this poisoned alcohol, and the administration is well aware of this. I recently travelled to Raghavpur by boat, and I saw a different kind of fume, a clear-cut sign that liquor was being prepared there. When I can see this, why can’t the officials? The smugglers are being guarded by the administration only. Today, there is a double jungle raj in Bihar.
Nitish Kumar is the one who told the people about jungle raj, and today, he is sharing the governance with the same people who brought Jungle raj to Bihar. What happened in Begusarai (mass shooting) is not an ordinary incident. Crime has increased under Nitish’s rule, and he is responsible for that because he is also the Home Minister of the State.
You started a campaign, ‘Bihar First, Bihari First’; how is it different from other campaigns, and why should people connect with this?
‘Bihar First, Bihari First’ is a vision document by LJP (Ramvilas), which shows what should be done on the ground. There are less number of schools in rural areas; if we have a school, then there are no qualified teachers. There are protests across Bihar for teachers’ recruitment. We need to provide modern education to the students; we have made a roadmap for this under the ‘Bihar First, Bihari First’ campaign. It also talks about the major problems in Bihar. Why can’t we have coaching centres in Patna, Muzaffarpur, and Bhagalpur when we can have them in Kota, where most of the teachers and students are from Bihar? Nitish Kumar says this is lacking because of geographical conditions, but this all is lacking because of his intentions. Gujarat, MP, UP, and all States have an investors’ summit; why can’t Bihar have it? Because Nitish Kumar isn’t interested in these things as he can’t provide ease of business to investors. Nitish Kumar has done nothing for the agricultural sector too, where a big section of society is dependent on agriculture. Because of all this, Bihar is at the bottom regarding revenue generation and per capita income.
Today, Bihar is like an old-age home. A wealthy family doesn’t want to stay here. They send their children to other States for study and jobs. Later, they settle down there. They come to Bihar only on Deepawali and Chatth puja or when their parents get ill. The connectivity of youth with Bihar is poor.
‘Bihar First, Bihari First’ also talks about religious tourism, which can be a significant source of revenue and employment. When we can have a Ram Temple in Ayodhya, why can’t we have a temple of Mata Sita in Sitamarhi? We have Bodhgaya and Patna Sahib, where Buddha and Sikh communities want to invest in improving the conditions. There should be a religious corridor connecting all these sacred places that can bring international tourists too. Unfortunately, Nitish Kumar is not interested in any of these things.
After a new government was formed in Bihar, Tejashwi Yadav said they would provide 10 lakh jobs. CM Nitish Kumar went a step ahead and said we would double this. But when the job aspirants protested for opening recruitment of teachers, the police lathi-charged them.
These promises are decades old. When Nitish Kumar was elected as an alternate to Jungle Raj in 2005, at that time, he said that it was his dream to bring back the people of Bihar who had moved to other States for better jobs. Unfortunately, he is not able to do that also. Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav said he would provide 10 lakh jobs in just one signature; now he is in power, and I’m eagerly waiting for that signature. Nitish Kumar doubled that figure. A few months ago, when Nitish ji was with BJP, he criticised the then leader of the Opposition Tejashwi Yadav by saying that he knows nothing; these are only election promises and not possible. We in ‘Bihar First, Bihari First’ have mentioned that 5 lakh vacancies are empty in the Bihar Government, which is already budgeted. Why is Nitish Kumar not restarting the sugar mills that are already there? These mills are capable of providing lakhs of jobs. Nitish Kumar only has promises but does not have a roadmap to achieve them.
“The PFI is an anti-national organisation, whereas RSS is a nationalist organisation which has been serving the nation for the longest time. Many Governments were against RSS, and many investigations were done, but no probe has found anything against RSS”
You mentioned that you don’t believe in the caste system, but all the parties in Bihar support caste-based census and CM Nitish Kumar have allocated Rs 500 crore for this. How do you see this?
I also support caste-based census because some schemes, policies and allocation of funds by the State and Union Governments are based on caste and community only. However, I don’t believe in the caste system. We, in India, have poor people from all castes and communities, and I want these people to be at the frontline and be the first to get the benefits of Government schemes.
There was a major crackdown on the Popular Front of India (PFI) in Bihar and across the country. Incriminating documents that calls for making India an Islamic nation by 2047 were also seized from the cadre. Later, around 200 PFI members and leaders were arrested from across the country, and the Union Government banned the Islamic organisation. What is your opinion on this ban?
I welcome the Union Government’s decision to ban PFI; the Government should keep on banning such organisations involved in anti-national activities and take strict action against them. Freedom of speech and expression do not mean involving in anti-national activities. LJP (Ramvilas) does not support any anti-national organisations. Any organisation found to be guilty in the investigation should be banned. I feel bad when people chant slogans of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ in our country. For us, the nation comes first. We do not accept such organisations and parties that support Pakistan and use a particular religion for their benefit.
RJD president and former Chief Minister Lalu Yadav has asked the Government to ban RSS also. How do you see this comparison?
The PFI is an anti-national organisation, whereas RSS is a nationalist organisation which has been serving the nation for the longest time. Many Governments were against RSS, and many investigations were done, but no probe has found anything against RSS. If you have a problem with the ideology of RSS, criticise them but linking them to anti-national activity is incorrect. RJD has been in power with UPA at the Centre for a long time; why didn’t Lalu ji ask the then Government to investigate RSS? If any organisation is growing daily through its work, then it has been doing something positive on the ground.
Nitish Kumar is being projected as the prime ministerial candidate of the Opposition.
It’s like the Mungeri Lal ke haseen sapne (Funny dreams of Mungeri Lal). Our Chief Minister is very desperate to become Prime Minister. The way he is knocking the doors of leaders of different parties is very disheartening. Sonia Gandhi gave him only 15 minutes. I think he left empty-handed from there because there was no official statement or photo released about this meeting.
“My party will contest the elections in an alliance, and the decision to choose an alliance will be taken at the right time”
When we talk about unity in Opposition, we see more than 15 candidates who are desperate to become PM. How can Nitish Kumar, with merely 40 MLAs and a few MPs, be the prime ministerial candidate of an Opposition which have Congress with 700 MLAs, TMC with over 200 MLAs, SP and AAP with over 150 MLAs? Nitish Kumar must think about how many seats he will get in the Lok Sabha to fight for in the coming general elections. He has the right to see dreams; let him see them.
Looking at the track-record, will the RJD-JD(U) alliance be able to complete this tenure?
To predict the future, one must look at the past. He (Nitish Kumar) can do compromises and betray anyone for power; I had also warned BJP not to trust him. I do not see the present alliance surviving for long. And I believe that we will soon have mid-term Assembly elections in Bihar. RJD and JD(U) do not agree with each other on views and plans, and the alliance will collapse before 2025. Seat sharing will be a major issue for both parties in Assembly and Parliamentary polls.
Are you going to contest the next round of Assembly and Lok Sabha elections alone?
No. My party will contest the elections in an alliance, and the decision to choose an alliance will be taken at the right time.