In 1977, a young Ram Vilas Paswan, then 31, won his debut Lok Sabha election from the Hajipur constituency in Bihar with a record margin of over 4.2 lakh votes. He broke his own record in 1989 from the same seat, winning by over 5 lakh votes. In the era of giant killers, this record too stands broken now. But, has Paswan etched his presence in Hajipur, a seat he has represented 10 times?
Now, the 40-year-old connection with a constituency which shaped Paswan’s political career both in Bihar and nationally has come to an end. So has the growth of his political party, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), which mainly represented the Paswan community or lower castes in Bihar. The politician has now decided not to contest elections and will instead be a Rajya Sabha candidate of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the next round of polls.
A popular caste leader from Bihar, Paswan’s absence from the electoral race is being felt by voters in Hajipur who feel it is the end of an era in a parliamentary seat, which has repeatedly elected one leader. This time the LJP has fielded his brother Pashupati Kumar Paras from Hajipur.
“He has been a very popular MP and so we voted him each time. Some of my relatives have recounted experiences of how he and his staff in Delhi helps anyone visiting at the mere mention of being from Hajipur. If he was contesting, no doubt he would have won again," said Jogeshwar Kushwaha, a farmer from Nawada village near Hajipur.
Last December, Paswan, 72, ruled himself out of the electoral race. Often referred to as the ‘political weathercock’, it is said that the support of his party to any alliance bolsters its chance.
Although Paswan started his political career opposing the Congress, then led by prime minister Indira Gandhi, in his long political career he has worked with almost all important political alliances, including those led by the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
While Paswan is aggressively campaigning for Paras, holding rallies, and asking people to “vote for the brother", voters feel that LJP’s performance will be dependant only on the goodwill for Paswan. But a section of voters also considers Paswan to be a “political opportunist", who has furthered dynastic politics by promoting only family members.
“He has been elected from here for a long time and chances are that even in his absence his party will do well from here. However, he could never build the party beyond the pocket borough. Like most other smaller parties, Paswan joined hands with everyone in power and made it family centric," said Dinesh Chaurasia, a small trader from Sadulpura in Hajipur constituency.
While Hajipur is witnessing a change with a new candidate, the LJP too is scripting a slow transition with second generation leaders coming to the forefront. Paswan’s son and actor-turned-politician Chirag Paswan (36) is taking up key responsibilities. A sitting Lok Sabha member from Jamui seat, Chirag too is seeking re-election.
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