New Delhi, June 23: Ram Vilas Paswan today thanked son Chirag for “compelling” him to join the NDA, 12 years after he quit the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government protesting the Gujarat pogrom under Narendra Modi’s watch.
Marking his about-turn since then, he urged Muslims to put the scars of 2002 behind them and argued they would be more secure under a Modi government than under any other.
Paswan was addressing the media between two sessions of a national executive meeting of the Lok Janshakti Party, called to celebrate its Lok Sabha poll performance.
“We are here to celebrate our victory. I thank members of the party’s parliamentary board, particularly Chirag Paswan, for compelling me (majboor karne ke liye) and some others in the party to join the NDA,” Paswan, the party president, said.
The Lok Janshakti won six of the seven Lok Sabha seats it contested in alliance with the BJP in Bihar. Paswan, his brother Ramchandra and Chirag have all acknowledged privately that none of them would have won had they retained the old alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress.
Chirag, chairman of the party’s parliamentary board, had virtually forced his father to snap the old alliance and forge a new one with the Modi-led BJP weeks ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
Paswan had initially been reluctant, worrying how he would justify a return to the BJP fold after having dubbed it “Bharat Jalao Party” and making a big issue of the 2002 violence.
Today, he backed Modi. “It’s been more than a month (under the new government) and there is unprecedented peace,” he said.
“The kind of security Muslims will enjoy under this government they would not have experienced under any other government.”
Once the Muslims have tasted life under Modi, Paswan said, they would vote for the NDA in the next election.
“How long will people hold on to Godhra? Allow the wheel to move ahead. People have forgotten the Emergency, Bhagalpur riots and the anti-Sikh riots,” he said, referring to some of the darkest hours of Congress rule to defend his own political turnaround.
Paswan, however, had only scorn for the turnaround by his Bihar rivals Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar, who have buried their bitter enmity and come together to stop the BJP.
The duo, he scoffed, were like “the snake and the mouse” that climb up the same tree to save themselves from being drowned in a flood.
“But they will not be saved; the NDA wave in Bihar will drown them both,” Paswan claimed.
He said the Assembly elections, due in end-2015, would be held later this year because cracks had surfaced in the Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress and would bring the government down.
Paswan described Nitish’s move to appoint Jitan Ram Manjhi as chief minister as an eyewash.
“At today’s party meeting, Chirag dared Nitish to declare Manjhi as the next chief ministerial candidate, too,” the father laughed. “But he will not do it; he’ll project himself as chief minister.”