On a day Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigned in Bihar with Nitish Kumar for the state election starting next week, his “loyal supporter” Chirag Paswan delivered a new, sharper threat for the Chief Minister. “If I come to power, I will have the scams in his saat nishchay (seven resolves) scheme investigated and if allegations come up against Nitish Kumar, he could also go to jail,” the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader told NDTV.
Chirag Paswan said he was “thankful” to PM Modi for paying homage at his rally to his father and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who died earlier this month.
The Prime Minister began his first rally this morning with a tribute to Ram Vilas Paswan. “Bihar recently lost two of its sons who served the people their entire life. I pay my tributes to Ram Vilas Paswanji, who worked for the poor and Dalits and stayed with me until his last breath,” PM Modi said, also referring to Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, a former Union Minister who died this month.
The PM did not once mention Chirag Paswan, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partner who has gone rogue and is fighting Nitish Kumar in the polls while pledging firm loyalty to the BJP. If Nitish Kumar, Chirag Paswan’s chief target, expected any clarification from PM Modi about the LJP not being part of the NDA in Bihar or at least about the BJP denouncing the younger Paswan’s attacks on the Chief Minister, it did not happen today.
“The PM comes and pays homage to my father, it is a matter of pride for me as a son. The words the PM used – that my father was with him till his last breath – made me emotional. I promise to also stand with PM Modi and his beliefs until my last breath,” Chirag Paswan told NDTV on the sidelines of his campaign in Barachatti in Gaya.
Mr Paswan’s barbs, getting sharper by the day, have been extremely upsetting for Nitish Kumar, who appears to be battling public anger as he fights for a fourth straight term in Bihar.
The BJP’s refusal to cut Mr Paswan loose has twisted the knife.
Last week, Mr Paswan dramatically declared himself “Hanuman” to PM Modi, saying that his image was embedded in his heart and could be seen if his chest was ripped open.
Though BJP leaders in Bihar have criticized Mr Paswan and even “warned” him against using the Prime Minister in his campaign, the leadership in Delhi has been noticeably reluctant to tell the LJP leader off publicly. There has been speculation for weeks that the BJP is secretly backing Mr Paswan as a counterweight to keep Nitish Kumar in check after the Bihar election results.
“I am with the NDA only for PM Modi. My loyalties are with him even if our political paths are different at the moment,” Mr Paswan said.
The 37-year-old LJP MP also detected a putdown in PM Modi referring to opposition criticism of his government’s move to end special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370. Despite his alliance with the BJP, Nitish Kumar’s party had last year initially opposed the move in parliament. Later, the party fell in line saying it would respect what had become law.
“Nitish Kumar opposed decisions on Article 370, triple talaq and the citizenship law while we supported the BJP at each and every step. I don’t know what he must have felt when the PM was talking about it today,” said Mr Paswan.