A fortnight later, Paswan still too shocked to speak

June 2nd, 2009 - 2:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Ram Vilas Paswan By Rana Ajit
New Delhi, June 2 (IANS) The pall of gloom over 12 Janpath refuses to lift although it has been two weeks since the 2009 general elections crushed its occupant, Ram Vilas Paswan, and his Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).

The eerie silence enveloping the mostly deserted bungalow is in stunning contrast to the atmosphere in the neighbouring and better known bunglow 10 Janpath, India’s all important power centre.

Ironically, it is from 12 Janpath, likely to be vacated by Paswan soon, where the process of setting up the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), led by India’s grand old party Congress, began over five years ago.

It all started after the then Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government made known its intention to go for an early poll.

One fine day in early 2004, Congress president Sonia Gandhi emerged from 10 Janpath and walked to her neighbour Paswan’s house seeking his cooperation in building the UPA. There had been no looking back since then.

Paswan happened to be one of the first political leaders who envisaged a Congress-led coalition as an alternative to the NDA.

Ever since he quit the cabinet in the NDA government protesting against its failure to contain the 2002 Gujarat communal riots, Paswan had advocated a Congress-led alliance to take on the BJP and its partners.

At news conferences at his bungalow’s sprawling lawns, he would exhort the Congress leadership to take the lead.

“To hear my appeal, the Congress leadership does not have to wait for the next day’s newspaper or watch TV. I am sure she must be hearing it, across the boundary wall,” Paswan would remark, referring to Sonia Gandhi.

Apparently in response Gandhi walked over to his residence. The rest is history.

Cut to present, Paswan looks mostly dazed. So do members of his family as well as his supporters.

Known for his warm personality, it now takes quite an effort to make Paswan even smile. Smile, he still does, only to be lost the next moment, deep in thoughts, staring blankly.

His well-wishers in his newly done drawing room in the bungalow appear as crestfallen.

They included party colleagues and from various walks of life including some retired judges and some serving police officers.

They talk of how they still hope that he will one day win the Lok Sabha battle from Hajipur in Bihar. Paswan’s answers are short, merely to mark his presence.

Stunned by his electoral defeat, some wonder if the electronic voting machines were dependable. Paswan merely looks on.

An eight-time MP who has been in many union cabinets, Paswan stands a bleak chance of entering even the Rajya Sabha. His party has merely nine legislators in the Bihar assembly and a Rajya Sabha member.

Unable to create an impact in his native state in an alliance with Lalu Prasad’s RJD, it’s not yet clear what strategy he would adopt for the Bihar assembly elections to be held in 2011.

Paswan’s detractors are ready to write his political obituary.

Sitting with him, amid his gloomy supporters, this reporter gently poses a few queries to Paswan.

But Paswan refuses to oblige. Wearing a feeble smile, he blurts out the bitter truth: “What can I speak now? I do not even have one single seat. I have lost even my own.”

(Rana Ajit can be contacted at rana.ajit@ians.in)

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