National

'No Minister Dreams, I Live In Reality': Chirag Paswan On Possible Cabinet Berth

Outlook's Asghar spoke to Chirag Paswan about his rollercoaster of a political journey.

Photo via SURESH K PANDEY
Chirag Paswan Photo via SURESH K PANDEY
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In order to establish his son in national politics, the leader who used to be counted among the big leaders of Dalits and the weathervane of Bihar politics, the late Ramvilas Paswan joined hands in 2014 with the party and the leader of whom he was the biggest opponent once upon a time. But after his passing away on 8 October 2020, both his family and his party (Lok Janshakti Party or LJP) became scattered. The son, Chirag Paswan, was left isolated. BJP left that same Chirag stranded in the Bihar Assembly elections, on whose insistence Ramvilas Paswan had allied with BJP in the first place. His father’s brother Pashupati Kumar Paras left with five out of six MPs and established his control over the party. But Chirag did not give up. He formed a new party under the name of LJP (Ramvilas) to carry forward his father’s legacy, and many joined him in support. Four years later, the BJP which had kept away from him during the Bihar Assembly elections, is now seeking to ally with Chirag over his uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras.

Within the NDA alliance, LJP (Ramvilas) has 5 seats in its share. The tussle between uncle and nephew over the Hajipur seat was settled when the nephew convinced the alliance in his favour. Chirag Paswan filed his nomination papers, amidst large crowds, from this very seat of Hajipur and proclaimed an assured victory for himself.

Outlook's Asghar spoke to Chirag Paswan about his rollercoaster of a political journey. Hajipur Loksabha seat will vote during the fifth phase of voting, on 20 May. Hajipur has been the traditional seat of Ramvilas Paswan, from where he was elected victorious eight times.

Asghar - You entered politics in 2014, holding your father Ramvilas Paswan’s hand. You contested and won the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and 2019 in his presence. Now in 2024, you are going to contest elections without your father’s presence for the first time. How much do you miss his absence?

Chirag - It is but natural. I learnt everything from my father. He is the one who provided guidance to me, always. I came thus far in politics, holding his hands. It was the first time today in my life that he was not present when I filed the nomination papers. It is going to be the first elections that I will be contesting without him. In 2014 and 2019, he had literally held my hand and carried me like a child to file the nomination papers. His absence is felt immensely. I miss him a lot. But I also get courage from him to face all the challenges.

Asghar - Your party LJP (Ramvilas) is contesting elections on five seats as part of the NDA alliance. How confident are you about winning these seats, particularly the Hajipur seat? There were large crowds to be seen during your nomination process.

Chirag - Certainly, my faith is strengthened by the wave of people and the enthusiasm with which they participated in my nomination process. The love that the people of Hajipur had for my father is being given today to me as well. I believe that our party will win all five seats including Hajipur, and the NDA will emerge victorious on all the forty seats in Bihar.

Asghar - What explains the tussle between you and your uncle over the Hajipur seat? Why were both insistent on contesting elections from the same seat? Was it to do with a feeling of attachment to the people to Hajipur or was it the prospect of an assured and safe victory?

Chirag - After my father’s death, it would have been very thankless of me to not carry on my shoulders the responsibilities undertaken by him in his lifetime. I believe that it is the duty of a son to fulfil the unfinished dreams and tasks of his father. My father always gave the status of a mother to Hajipur, and tried to do his work there with that same respect and feeling. There is a lot of work done by him which remain unfinished, and it is with the belief of finishing these that I decided to contest elections from Hajipur. This was my father’s karmabhoomi. After him, I felt that I need to take responsibility here.

Asghar - If an NDA government is formed in 2024 and if Chirag Paswan wins from Hajipur, can we consider it a given that you will become a Minister in the Central government?

Chirag - This question is meaningless, because it is related to one’s desires. No one knows what will happen in reality. What lies in the future, no one knows. I think there is a big difference between desires and reality. One can desire many things, but they are of no relevance in the face of realities. If desires had so much force, my father would be with me today, my party would not have split, my family would not have been scattered. Therefore, I live in reality, not in desires. Whatever the future brings will be accepted.

Asghar - You spoke about the split in your party and family. The way your uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras left the party with five out of six MPs post-2020, led to a split. You were left alone. Then you announced a new party, Lok Janshakti Party (Ramvilas). It seemed that everything was on track, just before the 2024 elections. Why was your uncle still not seen during your nomination process? Is everything alright in the family?

Chirag - He is senior to me in terms of age, relations and experience. I have always respected him. However, I am sad. Not only me, but many other elders of the family are. I am a Bihari and in a Bihari family, it is the elders who take all the decisions. In such a situation, my mother, sister, aunt, uncle have been saddened by his decision to cut me off from the party and family. It is he who took the decision to separate. It is again he who has to decide whether he wants to join us now or not. He was like my father, after my father’s death. I do not know what made him take this decision of separating from us. What hurts me is to think that he would never have taken such a decision if he considered me his real son. If my father was alive today, would he have left me alone even if I made some mistakes or angered him? He would not have. The problem is that he (uncle) never considered me like his real son, otherwise such a situation would not have arisen. If he was upset with me, he could have come to me, scolded me, held my ears and made me understand. It was a family matter; we could have resolved it at home. But he did no such thing.

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As far as his absence during my nomination is concerned, I tried a lot to invite him. I started giving him calls two days before the nomination. But he did not receive the calls, and when he did, he disconnected it. Even so, I felt that he will come to the nomination. That we will forget everything and start anew, that he would sit in my father’s place and give me his blessings.

Asghar - People have been unable to understand your constant reference to Hanuman in the context of the Prime Minister. Why does the BJP need a Hanuman when it is not in any danger or trouble as the party itself says?

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Chirag - I am not the trouble-relieving Hanuman. This is an episode from 2020 when I contested Bihar Assembly elections separately from the BJP. But I had dedication to my prime minister even in those elections. I was not Hanuman back then. Even though I had separated from the NDA back then, I was not part of any alternative alliance to contest elections. When I contested alone, the condition was imposed on me that I cannot use the photos of the Prime Minister. It is then that I said that the Prime Minister resides in my heart, I do not need to put up banners or hoardings. The Hanuman discussion started from there. I am devoted to our Prime Minister from the beginning, because he stood with us like a rock in the most difficult time of my life when my father was in the hospital. It would be very thankless of me to forget all this.

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I have always been influenced by the thoughts of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi. My father did not want to contest the 2014 elections in alliance with the NDA. It was my stubbornness that convinced him and made him agree to this decision to become a part of the alliance. I wanted us to go with a prime minister who for the first time was talking about all 100 crore citizens, irrespective of caste and religion. I was influenced by his policies, thoughts and philosophy since that time. Personally, I got connected with him when my father was hospitalized. The sanctity of the relation that was formed between us at that time has since been respected by the Prime Minister as well as me.

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I have been taunted a lot for the Hanuman comment that you are referring to. People said that I pretend to be the Hanuman of the very people who broke my party and family. But the reality is that these people will never be able to understand the relation that was formed between both of us back then.

Asghar - Ever since the 2020 Assembly elections, your most bitter rivalry was with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, and yet you are now contesting elections in alliance with him.

Chirag - I cannot deny this reality that I have questioned his policies many times. But now is the time for national elections. There is nothing above national interest. The interests of the alliance come after that, and then come the interests of one’s party…and personal interests will come at the end, if at all. In the national interest, it is imperative that Narendra Modi becomes the Prime Minister for the third time.

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Asghar - You attempted a career in Bollywood before entering politics. In the sole film you have worked in, your heroine was Kangana Ranaut. Both of you consider PM Modi to be your favourite, and now, both of you are contesting elections from the BJP. Is it a coincidence that both of you have entered politics?

Chirag - It is a good coincidence. Our film together did not work to be hit, but I hope that both of us will be a hit in the parliament. I have had very beautiful relations with her. I have personally always admired her fearlessness. We need such fearless people in the parliament.

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Asghar - Kangana Ranaut is always embroiled in controversies, but Chirag Paswan is not. What do you have to say on that?

Chirag - It is good that I am never involved in controversies. I believe that one should speak within respectable boundaries of language. Whether it is Hindi or any other Indian language, I feel that we can express our strongest opposition and protest to anything in decent words. I am in favour of using decent language, and that is probably the reason I am not embroiled in controversies.

"Translated by Sumati Panikkar"

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