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Dynasty war debuts in Bihar

- Chirag to Misa, scions in the thick of election battle in eastern state

Patna, March 9: Chirag Paswan and Misa Bharati have brought back to Bihar something it hasn’t much seen since the days of the Maurya and Gupta empires: dynasty politics.

But the state has now caught up with the national trend, with Chirag convincing father Ram Vilas Paswan to switch to the National Democratic Alliance after 12 years and Lalu Prasad handing a poll ticket to daughter Misa at the cost of old loyalist Ram Kripal Yadav.

“They are asserting their dynastic rights in these Lok Sabha elections. It remains to be seen if the electorate accepts them,” said N.K. Choudhary, principal of Patna College and a keen political observer.

Elsewhere, Rahul Gandhi has been playing a more decisive national role and Akhilesh Yadav is gradually taking over the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh. In Tamil Nadu, M.K. Stalin’s role is getting bigger by the day while Naveen Patnaik stepped into his late father’s shoes long ago in Odisha.

Ironically, in their early days, Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas were critics of the Congress’s politics of dynastic rule.

Till the last Lok Sabha polls, second-generation politicians played a minor role in Bihar. In 2009, Lalu Prasad’s sons Tej Pratap and Tejaswi would fly with their parents during campaign only to sit rather quietly on the dais.

Sometimes, Tejaswi would speak a few faltering words urging the crowd to support his father and his Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). “Ab seekh raha hai (He’s learning now),” the father would say.

Before the 2009 elections, there had been rumours that Misa had demanded the Pataliputra seat. Eventually, Lalu Prasad contested the seat himself. Five years on, things have changed.

Party sources said Misa had this time insisted on contesting from Pataliputra right from the beginning.

“Laluji had to yield,” an RJD insider said. “It was a five-hour drama that she staged at Ram Kripal’s Delhi home on Friday.”

Misa had waited five hours to meet Ram Kripal after apparently offering to withdraw her candidature from Pataliputra in his favour.

Tejaswi too has been playing a key role in the RJD’s programmes. “The RJD used to be a party for social justice; today it is a party for dynastic justice,” said a bitter Ram Kripal, who has quit his party posts.

In 2009, Chirag had been flirting more with Bollywood than politics. When his father decided to field filmmaker Prakash Jha from West Champaran, there were rumours that Jha would offer Chirag a role in a film. Chirag denied this and said he lacked the “depth to star in a Jha film”.

Chirag had then confined his role mostly to campaigning in Hajipur for his father, who eventually lost. Jha is now a Janata Dal (United) candidate from West Champaran.

In 2013, Chirag was made chairperson of the Lok Janshakti Party’s (LJP) parliamentary board. He apparently told his father that since aligning with the RJD, the party had been losing its relevance in Bihar.

He is said to have argued that Narendra Modi is the man for the future and they should ally with the BJP.

It was Chirag who held the initial round of talks with BJP leaders Shahnawaz Hussain, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Rajiv Pratap Rudy and thrashed out the details of the alliance before taking his father to meet BJP president Rajnath Singh. Today, Chirag is the NDA’s candidate for the Jamui seat.

“Both Ram Vilas and Laluji have health problems. Laluji faces legal problems too. Both have realised that their innings are coming to an end. So, they are handing over the baton to their children,” said a senior politician who didn’t wish to be quoted.

Senior BJP leader Nand Kishore Yadav agreed that dynasty politics was asserting itself in Bihar.

“But there is a difference between the two parties. There was no resistance in the LJP when Chirag was made chief of the parliamentary board but the resistance to dynasty rule is visible in the RJD,” he said.