Paswan readies to challenge Maya's might

Lucknow: Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) president and former Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan may have lost election from Hajipur (Bihar), but he may not sit outside the 15th Lok Sabha for long, thanks to alliance partner and good friend Mulayam Singh.

The Samajwadi Party (SP) chief is learnt to have offered the Ferozabad seat in UP, vacated by his son Akhilesh, to the Dalit leader and eight-time MP. (Akhilesh also won another seat in UP -- Kannauj -- which he has retained.) This is being seen as Mulayam's bid to mount a Dalit challenge to CM Mayawati and to start eroding her Dalit vote bank.

SP sources said Paswan would contest from Ferozabad as an LJP candidate supported by the SP. Paswan, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad and Mulayam had formed a fourth front before the Lok Sabha election.

Political watchers said after Meira Kumar's elevation as Lok Sabha speaker, it had become a question of political survival for Paswan. Kumar, a prominent Dalit leader of the Congress, won from Sasaram in Bihar.

"Paswan would be pushed into oblivion if he remains away from the national scene for the next five years," a journalist who has covered Bihar for years said.

Ironically, it is almost a quarter of a century later that the three players are part of a political game again. It was in 1985 that Kumar, Paswan and Mayawati had contested a byelection in Bijnor, a seat in UP reserved for Dalits. Mayawati, just 27 then, was contesting her first election. She ranked third, while Kumar won and Paswan was runner-up.

Paswan is preparing to challenge Mayawati's might in the electoral arena once again. After the BSP's poor show in the recent election, this lone Lok Sabha byelection in UP would indeed be a matter of prestige for Mayawati.

The BSP is expected to repeat SP Singh Baghel, a former Samajwadi MP who fought on a BSP ticket but lost to Akhilesh. The Congress is considering actor Raj Babbar, who lost from Fatehpur Sikri.