Infighting in the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) escalated on Tuesday with LJP MP Pashupati Kumar Paras removing his nephew Chirag Paswan from the post of party president which was soon followed by the latter expelling five MPs who staged a revolt against him and supported Paras.
The two factions led by Paswan and Paras are locked in an intense battle to take control of the party after Paras staged a coup against his nephew yesterday as five of the party’s six Lok Sabha MPs joined hands with him to oust Paswan.
The Lok Sabha Secretariat on Monday evening recognised Paras as the leader of the LJP in the House, a day after the five MPs informed Speaker Om Birla about their decision. The post was previously held by Paswan.
Apart from Paras, the MPs who have sounded the bugle of revolt are Mehboob Ali Kaiser, Veena Devi, Chandan Singh, and Prince Raj, who happens to be the son of another brother of Paswan and former MP, late Ramchandra Paswan.
In his first reaction to the developments, Paswan likened the LJP to a mother who should not be "betrayed". He also shared on Twitter a letter he had written to him on March 29 that highlighted Paras' alleged indifference to the party's agenda and conduct against its interests, and had urged him to fulfil his responsibilities to it and their family following the death of LJP founder Ram Vilas Paswan.
With the Paswan family and the party controlled by it now split down the middle only eight months after the death of Chirag Paswan's father, the two warring groups are now rallying the members of its organisation to their cause as both factions claim to represent the Lok Janshakti Party.
While five of its six Lok Sabha MPs have sided with Paras, the group headed by Chirag Paswan called a virtual meeting of the party's national executive in which 41 of 76 members were present, its Bihar unit working president Raju Tiwari said.
It was unanimously decided to expel the five MPs from the LJP for their "anti-party" activities, he told reporters.
It was a hurriedly called meeting, Tiwari said, claiming that many other members also extended their support to the decision and expressed faith in Chirag Paswan's leadership.
The group led by his paternal uncle claimed that a decision to remove Chirag Paswan, MP from Jamui, as party president was taken in an emergency meeting of the national executive in line with the principal of "one man, one post".
It was not shared as to how many members attended the meeting.
A meeting of the party's national council will be called in five days to elect a new president, the group said.
Chirag Paswan is expected to address a press conference on Wednesday, with the battle for the control of the party likely to reach the Election Commission soon.
The Lok Sabha secretariat has recognised Paras' election as the leader of the party in the House.
In a tweet, Chirag Paswan said he made efforts to keep the party founded by his father and his family together but failed. People are supreme in a democracy, he said and thanked those who have kept faith in the party.
The letter he had written to Paras, the youngest brother of his father, highlighted his uncle's unhappiness over a number of issues, including his elevation as the party president.
Chirag Paswan believes that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U) has worked to engineer the split as it wants to finish him off politically following his strident campaign against the state's ruling party in the 2020 assembly elections, sources close to him said.
By painting his uncle as "power hungry" whose conduct "hurt" his father when he was ailing, the young leader seeks to galavanise the LJP's core support of the Paswan community around him.
In his letter, he also said that Prince Raj, a party MP and his cousin who has sided with Paras, was allegedly blackmailed by a woman over the allegations of "sexual exploitation". While Paras ignored it, he asked Raj to go the police. There was no reaction from his cousin.
The BJP, the principal member of the NDA of which both the JD(U) and LJP are constituents, has officially maintained silence over the implosion within the party.
(With PTI inputs)