For much of last year, Nitish Kumar faced the sharpest attacks from ally Chirag Paswan, who even fielded candidates against the Bihar Chief Minister’s party in the November state election and tried his best to play on the strain between Mr Kumar and the BJP.
Months later, Chirag Paswan has been walloped by a coup led by his uncle and reportedly helped along by Nitish Kumar.
Five of the six MPs of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) – the sixth is Chirag Paswan – have written to the Lok Sabha Speaker asking to be treated as a separate group. They also want Chirag Paswan to be replaced as their leader by his uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras, the younger brother of his father and party founder Ram Vilas Paswan.
The Chief Minister, still smarting over Chirag Paswan’s impact on his party’s election performance, reportedly played a big role in the stunning events.
A senior leader of Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United (JDU), RCP Singh, said: “It is well-known that as you sow, so you reap. Chirag Paswan was heading a party which was with the NDA. Yet, he adopted a stance that damaged it in the assembly polls. This led to a sense of unease within his own party.”
Mr Kumar, say sources, worked on each and every MP separately in a meticulously planned outreach.
To deal with the Paswans, Mr Kumar picked Janata Dal United leader Maheswar Hazari, who is related to Pashupati Paras and was every bit aware of the tensions between uncle and nephew.
Mr Paras, who was known to be Ram Vilas Paswan’s right hand man, fell out with his nephew days after the LJP patron’s death on October 8.
He had made no secret of his support for Nitish Kumar and had disapproved of Chirag Paswan’s decision to break away from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and contest the Bihar polls separately.
The Chief Minister kept in touch with Mr Paras, sources say.
Another LJP rebel, Veena Singh, is married to a suspended lawmaker of the JDU, who is desperate to get back into Mr Kumar’s good graces.
One of the rebel MPs was won over when Mr Kumar personally monitored his treatment. When Chandan Singh fell sick in January, the Chief Minister took interest in his health. The MP later went to the Chief Minister’s home to thank him.
Chandan Singh’s older brother Surajbhan is close to Mr Kumar’s close aide Lalan Singh.
The fifth rebel, Chaudhary Mahboob Ali Kaisar, said to be the sharpest of the group, realised it was time for him to thank Mr Kumar for the time he persuaded Ram Vilas Paswan to re-nominate him from his parliamentary seat.
Three months ago, the LJP’s lone MLA, Raj Kumar Singh, had crossed over to the JDU on being berated for voting in favour of Maheshwar Hazari, the NDA candidate for the Bihar Deputy Speaker’s post.
Party leaders say Chirag Paswan failed to read the warning signs then and is paying for it.