Nitish Kumar attends Ramvilas Paswan's first death anniversary function, Chirag away in Delhi

The function was organised by Pashupati Kumar Paras

Rich tributes were paid on Friday to Ram Vilas Paswan by Bihar Governor Phagu Chauhan and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, among others, on the first death anniversary of the Dalit leader.

Dignitaries turned up in large numbers at 01, Wheeler Road, the sprawling bungalow where the state headquarters of Lok Janshakti Party founded by the late leader had been situated until the recent split, to attend the function organised by his younger brother and Union Minister Pashupati Kumar Paras.

Mr. Paras, along with nephew Prince Raj, an MP who along with his uncle led the split that left the late Union Minister’s son Mr. Chirag isolated in the party he was heading, greeted the visitors and led them to a giant portrait of Paswan where the dignitaries paid floral tributes.

Mr. Chirag, who has lost control over 01, Wheeler Road to the faction headed by Mr. Paras, was conspicuous by his absence. sources in his faction of LJP said he was holding a “shraddh” for his deceased father at 12, Janpath Marg, the bungalow in Lutyens’ Delhi that Paswan had occupied for a significant part of his political career and which served as the national headquarters of his party.

Mr. Kumar, who had known Paswan for several decades, told reporters “His death came as a shock to all of us. Neither his age nor his physical shape ever gave a hint that he would leave us so soon.

“His memories shall ever reside in our hearts. And we will do whatever is required by way of commemoration,” said the Chief Minister in an oblique reference to various demands by Mr. Paras, which include making a request to the Centre for conferring Bharat Ratna on the late leader and installation of his life-size statue here.

Notably, Mr. Chirag had held Paswan’s “barsi”, a ceremony held upon a year after death, nearly a month before the death anniversary.

The function was held at Paswan’s Shri Krishna Puri residence here and it was attended by Paras, besides opposition leaders like RJD’s Tejashwi Prasad Yadav.

It became an occasion for a virtual show of strength by the cornered leader, who later lashed out at Kumar for his alleged refusal to give appointment to accept the invitation and failure to turn up despite repeated requests made through the media.

Mr. Chirag had burnt his bridges with Mr. Kumar ahead of the 2020 assembly polls when he pulled out of NDA in the state claiming that he would work towards defeating the JD(U), a party headed by the chief minsiter and help BJP to form the next government.

This brinkmanship had hit JD(U) badly, as it ended up putting up its worst ever electoral performance, though the NDA secured a majority and BJP backed Mr. Kumar for another term in office.

The saffron party too distanced itself from the young leader and despite Mr. Chirag’s repeated proclamations of loyalty towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ended up recognising the breakaway faction headed by Mr. Paras who also secured a cabinet berth.

The battle for legitimacy between the two factions seems to be hanging in balance as the Election Commission has frozen the LJP’s poll symbol, allotting new ones to both groups.

Mr. Chirag’s faction now calls itself LJP (Ram Vilas) while the one headed by Mr. Paras has been named Rashtriya (national) LJP.

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