Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) continued to provide a platform to candidates left out by the BJP by accommodating them in the party’s second list of 53 candidates released Friday, though this time it has banked heavily on its own cadre.
Unlike the first list, which featured senior BJP leaders like Rajendra Singh, Rameshwar Chourasia and Ravindra Yadav, the new list has chosen to accommodate relatively lesser known BJP leaders, but those with local influence and unflinching loyalty to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the kind displayed by LJP chief Chirag Paswan.
Despite continuing attacks from the BJP, with several senior leaders openly branding the party a ‘vote katwa’ (vote splitter), Chirag has stuck to his plan of showing unmoved faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and offensive against chief minister Nitish Kumar.
“Giving vote to the JD(U) is akin to pushing Bihar back. LJP is not just fighting an election, it will win and implement its ‘Bihar First, Bihari First’ vision,” Chirag tweeted, with the party’s slogan ‘Wo lar rahe hain hum par raaj karne ke liye, hum lar rahe hain khud par naaz karne ke liye’ (They are fighting to rule over us, we are fighting to develop (Bihar’s) self-pride), while congratulating the party candidates after the release of second list.
From Khagaria, the party has fielded former MP Renu Kumari, who had switched over from JD(U) to BJP before joining the LJP later this year. She was also a minister in the Nitish Kumar cabinet. Sitting BJP MLA Baby Kumari also got a ticket from LJP after her seat went to the VIP Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP), a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) constituent. She also alleged that VIP was demanding money in lieu of a party ticket and wept before the media.
From Teghara, LJP fielded former BJP MLA Lallan Kumar, who had won the seat in 2010 but had no chance of contesting it this time since the seat was given to JD(U) in the seat sharing deal sealed by the NDA. JD(U) has fielded RJD import Birendra Kumar from the seat in this election.
Bhagalpur municipal corporation deputy mayor Rajesh Verma, who had joined the BJP before the Lok Sabha elections, has been fielded by the LJP this time.
Kameshwar Singh Munna, who had joined the BJP in 2015, has been given the LJP ticket from Ekma seat in Saran while another BJP leader Vinod Tiwari has already filed his nomination from Ziradei seat on the LJP symbol.
“I am with the vision of PM Narendra Modi, home minister Amit Shah and Chirag Paswan. I am not talking of BJP or any party,” Tiwari said after filing his nomination. Pradeep Thakur, fielded by LJP from Darbhanga Gramin and Rajiv Kumar Thakur, fielded from Gaura Bauram, have also been BJP leaders.
The party has, however, banked more on its cadres in the second list and asked several others to prepare for the third phase, the list for which would be released soon. Sticking to its plan, the LJP candidates have mostly been fielded on seats where JD(U) is contesting and the candidates list is dominated by Brahmins, Bhumihars and Dalits as part of LJP’s attempted social engineering.
On five seats, LJP candidates will also be fighting against the BJP, viz. Govindganj seat in East Champaran and Lalganj in Vaishali district. Both the seats were occupied by sitting LJP MLAs, but went to the BJP during seat sharing within the NDA after LJP decided to walk out of the coalition citing differences with Nitish Kumar.
The Govindganj seat is held by LJP state parliamentary board president Raju Tiwari, while from the Lalganj seat, LJP candidate Raj Kumar had won in 2015, defeating JD-U’s Vijay Kumar.
In Raghopur, it has fielded Rakesh Raushan against RJD’s spearhead Tejaswhi Prasad Yadav and BJP’s Satish Kumar Singh. However, Raushan and Singh both being Rajputs, it could make things easier for Tejaswhi.
The woman candidates have also benefited with 16 getting LJP tickets in the two lists released by the party so far. LJP spokesman Vikas Mishra, who is also contesting from Harlakhi seat, said that in keeping with the party’s focus on youth, 30 candidates out of the 95 announced so far are below 40 years of age.
“Winnability of the candidates and their profile are the only two factors that party chief Chirag Paswan has considered while selecting the candidates. Other factors only come later after media scrutiny. Most of the candidates feel that this is LJP’s chance and end of the road for Nitish Kumar due to huge anti-incumbency wave against him,” he added.
Two relatives of the LJP chief have also got accommodated in the second list of candidates including Chirag Paswan’s brother-in-law Mrityunjay Paswan, fielded from Raja Pakar seat, and cousin Krishna Raj from Rosera seat. Krishna is the brother of Samastipur MP and state LJP chief Prince Raj and the son of former MP, late Ramchandra Paswan.