Jamui, Bihar: Suave, articulate and composed – that is the first impression you form of Chirag Paswan. He does not look the archetypal cow-belt politician, and it does not have much to with his short brush with filmdom. He could be the face of the generational change gradually taking place in Bihar politics.
Chirag, son of Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan and a Member of Parliament who is leading the Lok Janshakti Party’s campaign in the state along with his father, spoke to Firstpost on his vision for Bihar in a free-wheeling interview. He said the word “Bihari’ was used as a derogatory remark and his fight was to regain Bihar’s lost identity and pride; and to fight for the youth. Read on:
Are you still unhappy with the BJP over the distribution of tickets?
I was never unhappy but was shocked. News was circulating that the LJP was angry. I can’t disclose the finer details discussed and agreed upon inside the closed doors due to coalition dharma. But whatever was discussed inside was different from what was told later. I got restless by seeing the reaction in our cadre, as they questioned why the LJP negotiated for a smaller number of seats. I spoke from my heart and communicated it to BJP president Amit Shah and the top party leadership. Now everything has been sorted out after Amitji’s assurance. My father is the biggest example of coalition politics. He has been an important functionary in every coalition government right from the VP Singh-led one to NDA-II, including UPA-I and II. We need to understand and respect the limitations of coalition politics. If you have higher goals to achieve, sometimes compromising helps in dealing with situations.
Don’t you think your alliance will be in a weak position as the BJP hasn’t announced its chief ministerial candidate?
Honestly speaking, no. We have precedents of the recent past in Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Haryana, where the BJP won despite not having a CM candidate. What better face can we have than our PM sahab (smiles). After winning the election, the selection of a chief minister will be based on a collective decision-making process, which is more democratic.
Is the ‘Modi factor’ going to be of any help to the BJP in this election?
The ‘Modi factor’ brought a difference at the national level and also at the grassroots level. He’s one person who promised Bihar a financial package and gave it. The UPA always promised, but never delivered. Looking at the voters’ mood and the massive crowd that Modiji’s rally at Banka attracted. One can easily say that the ‘Modi magic’ is there. The wave is even stronger this time.
How would you react to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar that “Nitish’s political DNA is faulty”?
The remark was blown out of proportion; it was just political satire. Nitishji used it as a political issue, just like he borrowed the land acquisition issue to make it his own. These are attempts to hide his shortcomings on the development front.
How will the Nitish Kumar-Lalu Prasad alliance affect NDA alliance?
Eventually, the Nitish-Lalu alliance will backfire. I don’t criticise for the sake of being critical, but let me tell you the truth. Nitishji initially had intentions to do good work. We had a lot of hopes, and some of those were initially fulfilled but later, he got into caste and vote politics. This alliance will backfire strongly for Nitishji. How can he join Laluji? As our alliance is strong, we’ve no fear from this alliance.
Don’t you think the rise of Dalit leader and former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi would pose a challenge for your party?
I’m a Dalit, myself. I’m a proud Bihari and an equally proud Dalit. For the upliftment of this section of society and in order to improve the socio-economic condition of the Dalits, it’s necessary that more and more people – especially big names, big personalities should join the cause. More representation in politics and in other fields is necessary. As for my father, who is also the national president of LJP, is concerned, he had created world records in electoral politics and has been named in the Guinness Book of World Records twice.
What do you have to say on the recent rebellion within your family?
He (Chirag's brother-in-law Anil Kumar Sadhu) held a press conference on 30 September and cleared the air, and said whatever he did was out of anger. For me it’s a very sensitive issue. I’m not in a position to talk on this, as I’m not comfortable with it. Thankfully, my parents have dealt with it successfully. My brother-in-law has apologised for his actions. Now, everything has been sorted out.
Being a Member of Parliament from Jamui — one of the hotbeds of Maoist insurgency in India, how do you plan to get Naxals to discard guns?
We’re trying to establish honest dialogue with the Naxals. Big problems can be sorted out through dialogue. They too must have had problems and issues, which turned them into rebels. But safety and security of my people is my top priority. We won’t shun from taking strong steps, if needed. The government wants them to leave guns and join the mainstream. My fight as an MP is for the deprived sections from all castes, classes and religions. Today, the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. We need to fight it out.
What made you join politics after quitting your career as a film actor, as you had said earlier that you joined films by listening to your inner voice?
Initially, I wanted to be in the film industry. After the release of my first and only film, I got offers from two-three production houses. Had I continued acting, some day I would have got recognition as an actor like many of my ilk. I was brought up in Delhi and worked in Mumbai. I could have led a comfortable life with screen popularity, but I chose to join politics to strengthen the LJP and work for the people of my state of Bihar. Despite 68 years of independence, Bihar, which was ruled by the Congress government for four decades, followed by Lalu Prasad Yadav and later Nitish Kumar, suffers from lack of basic amenities. The word “Bihari’ is used as a derogatory remark and my fight is to regain Bihar’s lost identity and pride; and to fight for the youth.
What about your status as an ‘inheritor of dynastic rule’ like some of the young politicians at present?
I agree that my father is not only a national-level politician but also president of the party of which I’m a member. But, I’m not here just because of that. As I said, I could have continued in the films, but decided not to do so. I’m not in politics to be a mere show-piece politician. I visit my constituency on a regular basis and I’m available to people from my constituency even at late hours. There’s no fixed time like in an office. It’s a 24x7 job and I enjoy time with my people, and that’s my comfort zone.
What are your future plans and where do you see yourself in the next five years?
To give more time to my party, have strong foothold in Bihar up to every booth-level and build a strong organisational set up. I want to spread my wings and eventually take my party to other states — like participating in the UP Assembly election in 2017. There are many politicians and many policies, but there are hardly any that work for the prosperity of Bihar. I want to fill that space and strive towards getting the youth their rights, education and employment. Why do our players need to go to other states to play? Within 10 months of becoming an MP, I got the first Kendriya Vidyalaya in Jamui.
Updated Date: Oct 05, 2015 15:17 PM