Chirag Paswan, isolated by a sudden coup in his Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) led by his uncle, is likely to lose the post of party chief next in the rapid slide in his political fortunes since Monday morning.
Sources say five of the six LJP Lok Sabha MPs who have revolted – he is the sixth – and chosen his uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras as their leader, will next move to remove him as national party chief and the leader of the LJP parliamentary party and board.
Chirag Paswan stands to lose every leadership post he has held in the party that he took over after his father and LJP founder Ram Vilas Paswan’s death in October last.
Sources say Mr Paras, the younger brother of Ram Vilas Paswan and the lead player in the coup launched with considerable help from Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and the BJP, will go to Patna with the other MPs and call a meeting of the LJP national executive to enable sweeping changes aimed at pushing Chirag Paswan out in the cold.
On Monday, Chirag Paswan’s attempts at reconciliation failed and the rebels were cold to his reported compromise formula – installing his mother as national party president in his place.
Chirag Paswan drove to his uncle’s house but waited for an hour and 45 minutes as Mr Paras did not invite him in. His cousin Prince Raj, another rebel, also stays in the house but did not come out either.
Later in the evening, the rebel MPs voted to replace Chirag Paswan and elected his uncle as their leader. Speaker Om Birla endorsed the decision, leaving Chirag Paswan replaced as Lok Sabha leader in the party he heads.
“I have not split the party, I have saved it. Chirag Paswan is my nephew as well as party’s national president. I have no objections to him,” Mr Paras said yesterday.
Mr Paras, a first-time MP who had always been Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s low-key right hand man, planned the coup months after a bitter and public falling out with his nephew, just days after Paswan Senior’s death.
He had never been on board with Chirag Paswan’s decision to break away from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the Bihar election and attack ally Nitish Kumar.
While the LJP won just one assembly seat out of Bihar’s 243, it inflicted the worst damage on Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United (JDU). JDU leaders believe the party lost 32 seats because of Chirag Paswan’s vote-splitting factor. For Nitish Kumar, it meant a vastly diminished status in the NDA with the BJP emerging as the dominant partner.
After the polls, the Bihar Chief Minister made it clear that he did not want Chirag to have anything to do with the NDA – or BJP for that matter.
When there was talk of Prime Minister Narendra Modi expanding his cabinet, Chirag Paswan was seen as a natural choice to replace his father, who died in office on October 8.
But the JDU, which is eyeing a place in the Union Cabinet, reportedly nixed Chirag.
Sources say senior JDU leader Lallan Singh and a BJP Rajya Sabha MP then went back to LJP MPs and Mr Paras was told that he could become a part of the NDA in Bihar and the Centre only if Chirag Paswan was not in command.
JDU leader Maheshwar Prasad Hazari, a Paswan family relative and a former LJP MLA, played a role in persuading the rebels to take the plunge. The decision to replace Chirag Paswan was taken in a meeting in Patna on Saturday.
After long discussions, the task of introducing the five LJP MPs to the Speaker as a separate unit after their Sunday night rebellion was given to a BJP parliamentarian from Bihar.
Sources say if and when Mr Paras is elected the LJP national president in place of Chirag Paswan, his chances of an entry into the Union Cabinet will brighten.