Obit: A Dalit Leader Who Could Predict Political Winds

By Prashant Sood

A leader who had uncanny ability to predict political winds in national politics, Ram Vilas Paswan was an articulate leader who emphatically raised issues concerning the Dalits and voiced concerns of the common man.

A nine-time member of Lok Sabha, Paswan remained a prominent leader in national politics for over four decades since he entered Lok Sabha from Hajipur in 1977 with a record margin. The victory also made it to the Guinness Book of Records.

The seventy-four-year-old leader was a sitting member of Rajya Sabha and had been elected to the Upper House of Parliament in 2010 also. He was Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution in the Narendra Modi government.

In his long political innings, Paswan served as a union minister under six Prime Ministers and has been associated with Samyukta Socialist Party, Lok Dal, Janata Party and Janata Dal. He later floated Lok Janskhati Party. The LJP performed well as part of NDA in Lok Sabha elections in Paswan’s native Bihar but its performance has been sliding in assembly polls since 2005.

The LJP, with Ram Vilas Paswan’s young son Chirag as its chief, has decided to contest this year’s assembly polls outside NDA in Bihar in an apparent effort to expand its base. The party has decided not to put candidates against BJP but contest seats being fought by Janata Dal-United.

Ram Vilas Paswan was first elected to the Bihar state assembly in 1969. He was associated with Samyukta Socialist Party and was imprisoned during the Emergency. A follower of socialist leader Jai Prakash Narayan, Paswan contested his first Lok Sabha election from Hajipur in Bihar in 1977.

He became a minister in the VP Singh government, joined United Front government in 1996, held key portfolios in the Vajpayee government including telecommunications, railways and coal and also served as a minister in the UPA-I government led by Manmohan Singh.

Paswan quit the Vajpayee government in 2002 and joined the National Democratic Alliance ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The NDA came to power and BJP won an absolute majority on its own for the first time with Narendra Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate. Paswan was inducted into the union cabinet and remained an important ally of the BJP at the Centre.

Born on July 5, 1946, near Khagaria, he completed a master’s and a law degree. He was selected as deputy superintendent of police but decided to pursue a career in politics.

Described as weathercock of Indian politics, RJD leader Lalu Prasad had described Paswan as “mausam vigyanik (weather scientist)” for his ability to correctly predict the political winds.

A parliamentarian with strong debating skills, Paswan did not believe in holding his punches during a political attack but his words did not violate the norms of parliamentary decency.As Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Paswan took measures against overpricing and reducing the use of plastic in the packaging of water bottles. (ANI)

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