Question on Padma award for Paswan leaves the JD(U) squirming

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Patna, Jan 26 (PTI) The JD(U) on Tuesday squirmed at suggestions that a posthumous Padma Bhushan award for former Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan indicated the BJPs fondness for the LJP, founded by the late leader and headed by his son Chirag who has turned renegade.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, de facto leader of the JD(U) who has known Paswan senior for many decades, had on Monday night come out with a statement expressing delight over a number of people from Bihar, including the late leader, receiving the Padma awards.

At a function organised at the JD(U) headquarters here on the occasion of Republic Day, journalists sought reaction on Padma Bhushan for Paswan from RCP Singh, a key aide of Kumar who replaced his mentor as the partys national president last month.

A former career bureaucrat, Singh sought to wriggle out with a generic reply.

'We extend our congratulations to all distinguished persons who have received the civilian honours. We extend the same to family members of those on whom these have been conferred posthumously', he said.

However, when journalists persisted with a pointed query as to whether the development indicated that the BJP still had a soft corner for the LJP, which has opened a front against Kumar and his party but swears by its loyalty towards the saffron outfit, Singh snapped back.

'Why do you insist on viewing everything from the same angle? What does it have to do with party affinity? To which party did Tarun Gogoi belong?', said Singh, referring to the former Assam Chief Minister, a veteran Congress leader, whose name has figured among the recipients of Padma awards.

The JD(U) rank and file has squarely blamed its poor show in the recent assembly elections on the rebellion of Chirag Paswan who gave tickets to a number of BJP rebels from seats contested by the chief ministers party.

The BJPs inability to thwart Paswans brinkmanship has also led to suspicions among the JD(U) cadre even though the partys top leadership threw its weight behind Nitish Kumar and stuck to the promise of installing him as chief minister despite his party winning far fewer seats than the saffron outfit. PTI NAC MM MM