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In Hajipur, PM’s ‘Hanuman’ vs Lalu’s ‘Ram’ amid fraying caste loyalties | India News

HAJIPUR: At the height of a bitter political rivalry between the two Paswans, BJP sided with Chirag, whose Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) was allotted five seats for LS elections under a seat-sharing arrangement, while the rival LJP faction led by his uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras, then a Union minister, was allotted none.
Now that Chirag has filed his nomination for Hajipur, the onus is on him to prove he enjoys the support of the Dalit community and is the “real” political heir to his father Ram Vilas Paswan, who represented this Lok Sabha seat eight times in the past.
This is the first LS election Chirag is fighting without the senior Paswan, who died in Oct 2020, to guide him. With uncle Pashupati Paras along with his faction of the party not campaigning for Chirag, the 42-year-old faces the toughest battle of his decade-old political career. In 2014 and 2019, Chirag got elected from Jamui, a seat reserved for SCs. However, this time, he has moved to Hajipur, which goes to polls on May 20, in a bid to stake claim to his father’s political legacy that continues to be a bone of contention between him and his uncle.
Chirag’s claim over Hajipur is based on the fact that his father had represented the constituency for a record eight times. In 1977, Ram Vilas hit the headlines when he won the Hajipur seat by a margin of more than 4.2 lakh votes. He also has the rare distinction of serving as a minister in the cabinets of six PMs — V P Singh, H D Deve Gowda, I K Gujaral, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi.
In his entire political career, he had lost elections in Hajipur only twice — in 1984 and 2009.
In 2019, owing to his failing health, Ram Vilas handed over his pocket borough to younger brother Paras, who emerged victorious by more than two lakh votes. However, soon after Ram Vilas’s death, a bitter rivalry erupted between Chirag and his uncle, who, in an overnight coup, hijacked the erstwhile LJP and got himself elected as the party chief in Lok Sabha and also as its national president. That led to a split in LJP.
A win for Chirag is, therefore, crucial to help him stay politically relevant. A win will validate his claim as the political heir to his father and help stamp his authority over the politically significant Dusadh community that accounts for 5.3% of the state’s population, according to a report on the Bihar caste survey. Right now, Chirag, who often loves to call himself PM Modi’s “Hanuman”, is locked in a direct fight with RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s Shiv Chandra “Ram”, a former minister who lost the last polls.
If Chirag is banking on the NDA vote bank plus PM Modi’s popularity, the RJD candidate enjoys the support of a united opposition. RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav’s 17-month performance as deputy CM in the previous Grand Alliance govt is also coming in handy. He also keeps reminding voters that Chirag is an outsider, hailing from Khagaria district, while he is the “son of Hajipur”.
Despite Tejashwi’s “outsider” jibe at Chirag, there are many voters who openly support Chirag. “He (Chirag) is young and educated. We are confident he will work harder than his father,” says Sanjay Paswan from Pakauli village under Bidupur block.
Another villager, Devendra Prasad Singh, said they have to elect a PM and voters will keep that in mind. “There is a lot of difference between inflation in the past and now. Moreover, the country is secure, which is more important,” he says.


Yet, all doesn’t appear to be hunky dory for Chirag. What worries him is the “role” of his uncle and arch-rival Paras. Although he finally decided against taking on his nephew in Hajipur, following intervention by BJP, the former Union minister is conspicuous in his absence from campaigning for his nephew. “
Pyasa kuen ke paas jata hai ki kuan pyasa ke paas (Does the thirsty got to the well or is it the other way round)?” Paras told the media when asked about his absence from Chirag’s poll campaign. He claimed Chirag had not reached out to him.
This is not the only worry for Chirag. There is also strong resentment among Kushwaha (Koeri), who form 4.21% of total voters, and Paswan voters over denial of tickets to aspirants from their communities. Last week, Kushwahas held a mahapanchayat in Hajipur that decided to ensure Chirag’s defeat. “In 2014, LJP was allotted seven seats; in 2019, six seats and in 2024 five seats, but none from our community or loyal party workers were nominated. Instead, outsiders walked away with tickets. Who is Shambhavi Choudhary (LJP’s Samastipur candidate)? And when did Arun Bharti work for the party?” asked Ajay Kushwaha, former state vice-president who resigned from LJP(RV) along with 21 leaders last month. Bharti is Chirag’s brother-in-law. He has been fielded from Jamui LS seat as sitting MP Chirag moved to Hajipur.
Shivnath Paswan who is associated with a social organisation called Dalit Vikas Mission, claims Chirag never cares for anyone except his family members. “Grand Alliance gave tickets to seven from the Kushwaha community and hence there will be a sharp split in Kushwaha-Kurmi votes this time. In the name of ticket distribution, only the Chirag family has been benefited,” Shivnath alleged.
In a last-ditch attempt at damage control, PM Modi himself visited Hajipur on May 13 to campaign for Chirag and highlighted the contributions of the late Paswan. “This is the first Lok Sabha election we are contesting in the absence of Ram Vilasji and we are committed to fulfilling his unfulfilled dreams,” the PM said.
Playing the emotional card, Chirag said: “Hajipur is more than a Lok Sabha seat to me. I will serve you as a son of Hajipur, not as a leader.”
Hajipur, which comprises six assembly segments — Hajipur, Lalganj (both with BJP), Raja Pakar (Congress), Mahua, Raghopur and Mahnar (the last three with RJD) — has a significant presence of Yadav (3 lakh) and Paswan (2 lakh) voters. Muslims, Ravidas and upper castes, too, have a significant presence, though Kushwaha and Kurmi voters, who together account for some 3 lakh votes, will be the deciding factors. RJD candidate Ram himself is a member of the Ravidas community.

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