The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Losers’ dilemma: How to keep flock together
- Paswan has some reasons to celebrate

Patna, Nov. 22: Lalu Prasad today wisely refrained from blaming cabinet colleague Ram Vilas Paswan for the electoral debacle; political circles, however, suspect he got his good friend Sitaram Yechury to demand Paswan’s exit from the Union cabinet for splitting secular votes in Bihar.

How much damage was eventually inflicted by Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) will not be known till the full results come in.

The LJP had put up over 200 candidates and its ally CPI 35.

While they eventually managed to win only 10 and three seats, respectively, a detailed analysis of votes secured by each of their candidates and the victory margins alone would indicate how much the Lalu Prasad front bled because of the Union steel minister’s political adventurism.

Paswan, of course, has the satisfaction of seeing Lalu Prasad cut down to size but while succeeding in fulfilling one part of his mission, the LJP leader failed to keep his pledge of keeping BJP out of power.

His public promise of installing a Muslim as the next chief minister, too, remained unfulfilled as he sought solace today in RJD’s ouster.

While it is by no means certain that the result would have been different if Paswan had agreed to be a part of the Lalu Prasad front, the Dalit leader can also derive satisfaction from the large crowds that his public meetings attracted during the campaign.

Even in terms of votes, the party claims to have secured between 10 and 15 per cent votes, which, if true, is substantial for a fringe party.

Not all is lost for Paswan, it would seem, in case he is planning a long-haul in Bihar.

“The party’s poor showing could also be a result of the stress on having a Muslim as chief minister. We are not certain how our insistence on this issue was received by the people but when things go bad, they really go bad,” claimed a disappointed LJP leader Satish Kumar.

LJP leaders do not expect Paswan to be dropped from the cabinet. Not only because the UPA requires a Dalit voice in Bihar, explain LJP leaders, “but also because our leader always took Sonia Gandhi into confidence and explained his reasons for the anti-RJD stand”.

Paswan’s primary worry, however, would be to keep his flock together. Last time, 18 of his 29 elected members defected to the Dal (United). This time, too, barring his own brother Pashupati Paras and one or two others, few of his elected members seem to owe any personal allegiance to him.

The nature of his rag- tag party became apparent when one of the four LJP MPs, Ranjeeta Ranjan, campaigned for the RJD this time. Who knows for whom the LJP MLAs will campaign next'

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