PATNA: In his first interview
to TOI after his father
and LJP founder Ram Vilas Paswan’s death, the 37-year-old ‘Chirag’ of the Paswan family tells TOI that he has stopped his tears, for now, to fulfil his responsibilities as the leader of the party and his father’s dream to see LJP embark on the path of political supremacy in Bihar
. Clad in a dhoti, Chirag tells Piyush Tripathi about the late RVP’s last words to him, why he has waged a war against CM Nitish Kumar
and his strategy in the polls. Excerpts: What were your father’s last words to you?
I think he could foresee things and kept preparing me mentally for this day. I remember one thing clearly that he told me in the hospital, never to be scared of walking alone if my thoughts and intentions are right. He said he also started his political journey alone with only his brothers, who used to paste posters in his support during elections and he told me to always keep the family together. What ideals of RVP you want to follow in your political career?
Everything, whatever I am today, every bit of it, right from my personality, attitude and thinking process, everything is inspired by him. I am the moon and he is the sun, I reflect whatever he emits. With your father not there to guide you now, how do you see this election?
This election for me is a platform to fulfil my father’s dreams. He wanted me to go alone and LJP to contest against Nitish Kumar Ji. He was very clear that we have to step forward for the development of the state, through ‘Bihar First, Bihari First’ vision. He also believed that Nitish Kumar Ji couldn’t deliver in the last 15 years and mostly thought about saving his chair. Your two former allies BJP and JD (U) are against you in this election. How difficult has the battle become for you now?
It is difficult without my father but he has made me strong enough to fight all odds. It doesn’t matter much if we are fighting against JD (U) as there is huge anti-incumbency against them and people’s anger against the CM is going to be reflected during voting. We are still in alliance with BJP nationally and I still believe the next government will be formed by BJP-LJP. Why is there so much bad blood between you and Nitish?
He was disrespectful to my father. It started during Rajya Sabha election after the 2019 general election. Though it was clearly announced by all three NDA constituents in New Delhi that the first RS seat will be given to Ram Vilas Paswan Ji. But on the day of nomination, we got a call from a senior BJP functionary that CM is not aware of this decision of RS seat to Ram Vilas Paswan Ji. His behaviour was very humiliating and it was not acceptable to me as a son. On top of this, he (Nitish) said a few days ago that Papa did not go to RS with only two MLAs, this is the most insensitive thing he could have said for someone who won with record votes. Who took the decision that LJP will contest on 143 seats?
It was Papa’s decision. I remember he told me once that only if he could take a similar decision in 2005. He said another time that if you support Nitish today and he forms the next government, then you will not be able to forgive yourself 10-15 years down the line. This finally prompted me to take the decision. He was also concerned that the party was shrinking in terms of numbers of seats contested. From 175 seats contested in 2005, we came down to 42 seats in 2015 elections. What will be your strategy given that you don’t have much time?
I will start campaigning most probably from October 21. I would travel by road to as many places as possible. We will tell people about our blueprint for the development of the state through Bihar First, Bihari First’ vision document. Modern Bihari wants to get out of caste-based politics. How are you going to address the youth on this front?
My father was largely considered one of the tallest Dalit leaders in the country but he always told me that the biggest caste is poverty and our work should be directed to eliminate it. Poverty doesn’t come looking at a caste. I would like to specifically name the incumbent CM for dividing society. He divided Dalits into Mahadalits, backward into extremely backwards. But he did not do anything for them. Some of your critics say that you are too ambitious in aspiring to become CM at such a young age. Your take?
First of all, I would like to rule out myself as a CM candidate. Secondly, I believe that there is nothing wrong in being ambitious for youths and seniors should also have a big heart to support them.