(Adding detail) Patna, Jul 5 (PTI) Chirag Paswan on Monday undertook his first tour of Bihar since the recent split in the LJP, and reached out to people with the plea that he was his late father Ram Vilas Paswan's rightful political heir while those who had revolted against him were guilty of 'betrayal'.
The Jamui MP, who had taken over as the party president in his fathers lifetime, received a rousing welcome at the airport where thousands of supporters had gathered to express their solidarity.
After a brief stay in the state capital he headed for Hajipur to launch 'ashirwad yatra' on his father Ram Vilas Paswan's birth anniversary.
In Patna, Paswan's younger brother Pashupati Kumar Paras presided over a function held on the occasion of the LJP founders birth anniversary and demanded a Bharat Ratna for the deceased leader.
He also requested Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to consider installation of late Paswans statues at the premises housing the partys state headquarters here and at a vantage point in Hajipur.
Travelling by an open vehicle, 38-year-old Chirag led a gigantic procession to the Patna High Court where he had plans to garland a statue of Bhim Rao Ambedkar, but was thwarted by the security personnel.
On cue, Chirag squatted in front of the premises and told reporters 'I dont know what is Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar trying to prove by obstructing me. We can be prevented from seeking the blessings of Ambedkar but not from following his ideology'.
The urbane former Bollywood actor seemed obviously mindful of the need to assert his Dalit identity in order to thwart attempts of his rebellious uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras and cousin Prince Raj to usurp the legacy of his late father.
In an attempt to consolidate himself, Chirag sought to mend fences with estranged members of his fathers extended family. He paid a visit to the residence of his step-sister Asha Paswan and the two hugged and broke into sobs remembering their father.
Asha, whose husband Anil Sadhu is a prominent leader of Lalu Prasads RJD, also marched a few steps with her stepbrother whom she blessed for the success of 'ashirwad yatra' in Hajipur the constituency which now Paras represents, but has for years been seen as late Paswans citadel.
At Hajipur, a massive crowd had turned out to greet the son of their late leader, whose visit coincided with Paswans birth anniversary.
'Look at these crowds. With so much of strength, does anybody need to worry?' he said responding to queries from journalists who drew his attention to the rival camps claim that the split in the party had left Chirag 'weak'.
He also bristled when asked about the contention of Paras that Paswans son should have taken out a 'shraddhanjali yatra' on the occasion and held his programmes in his own constituency of Jamui.
'My uncle seems to have forgotten that Hajipur and my father have been synonymous with each other. He also seems to have forgotten that a shraddhanjali yatra was taken out after Papas death', Chirag replied with a smirk.
Lashing out at Paras, who recently replaced the nephew as the leader of the parliamentary party and became the 'national president' of the breakaway faction, Chirag said 'after Papas death, he was the eldest member of the family. He was supposed to keep the flock together. Instead, he chose to break the party'.
Chirag also rebutted the contention of Paras that things were fine in the LJP till the latter headed the state unit and the former had proven to be a failed leader following the debacle in the assembly polls.
'Chacha (uncle) claims credit for the partys performance in 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The only man who deserves credit for the same was the national president and the post was, till then, held by my father.
'Moreover, using his own yardstick, would he accept responsibility for the partys debacle in 2009 when Papa too suffered a humiliating defeat in Hajipur?', asked Chirag.
Both factions of the LJP swear by the loyalty towards BJP-led NDA. However, while Chirag has been a strident critic of the Chief Minister and his JD(U), Paras and his supporters believe such a political stance was untenable.
The JD(U) has kept silent over the crisis, refusing to comment even on allegations that it had engineered the split to avenge Chirags rebellion against Kumar during the assembly polls.
The BJP has refrained from making any official statement, prompting Chirag to complain that as a committed ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he was pained by the 'silence'.
Nonetheless, the BJPs state spokesman and national general secretary of OBC Morcha Nikhil Anand came out with a cryptic tweet stating that he wished, in his 'individual and personal capacity, that Chirag succeeded in reclaiming his fathers legacy.
Chirag has also been handed out an olive branch by RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, whom the cornered LJP leader has thanked and called a 'little brother' but refrained from going further.
Nonetheless, rich tributes were paid to Paswan at the RJDs silver jubilee celebrations and its supremo Lalu Prasad, who joined via video conferencing from Delhi, shared fond memories of the departed leader whom he had known for many decades. PTI NAC SNS SNS