Ram Vilas Paswan’s demise provides one other angle to already difficult Bihar elections

Vibha Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 9

The death of Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan may have added another angle to the already-complicated diagram of the upcoming Bihar Assembly elections, feel many political observers.

With the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) fighting independently this time, the general feeling is that the sad event may help the party he founded consolidate its core votes, but there is more. A sizable number of LJP candidates are seen as BJP ‘proxies’.

However, it remains to be seen if the sympathy factor will be strong enough to overcome the anti-incumbency against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led government of which the BJP is also a part. If that happens, the LJP may land votes of other castes, much to the chagrin of Opposition ‘mahagathbandhan’ and BJP ally JD-U.

Leaders agree passing away of Paswan has introduced the nuance of uncertainty in the already complicated elections seen as a swansong of Nitish Kumar. Though a section also believes that voters have “become cynical” and the death is unlikely to sway the “average Bihari voter who is more politically intelligent than an average Indian voter”.

Besides, “death of tall leaders sway sentiments in South or some extraordinary situations like in the case of Indira Gandhi”, says a senior BJP leader.

While some of the goodwill Paswan earned in his more than five-decade-long political career is expected to rub-off on his political heir Chirag Paswan (depending upon his ability to make the connect), for some his ‘Bihar first Bihari first’ slogan is “somewhat divisive and reeks of over-ambition”, especially when in the last Assembly elections the LJP barely managed to win two seats while his father was very much around.

This is why many observers say more than causing any real gain to BJP or Chirag, the death may play heavy on prospects of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led JD-U.

Engaged in an open feud with the JD-U, Chirag, in his letter to BJP president JP Nadda, accused Nitish  Kumar of “insulting” his father and talked of “wave of disaffection” against him among voters in Bihar.

“LJP will be free to berate JD-U but Nitish Kumar no longer has the freedom,” they say.

So far as Chirag is concerned, he has already publicised his future prospects as the post-poll ally of BJP and admiration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

That PM Modi was also fond of late Ram Vilas Paswan is also evident, though the BJP has categorically said that it would back Nitish Kumar as the CM “whoever gets whatever numbers”.

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