Ram Vilas Paswan (born 5 July 1946) is an Indian politician from Bihar and the current Cabinet Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution. Paswan is also the president of the Lok Janshakti Party, eight-time Lok Sabha member and former Rajya Sabha MP. He started his political career as member of Samyukta Socialist Party and was elected to the Alauli (Khagaria) Legislative Assembly in 1969. Later, he joined Lok Dal upon its formation in 1974, and became its general secretary. He opposed the emergency, and was arrested during the period. He entered the Lok Sabha in 1977, as a Janata Party member from Hajipur constituency, was chosen again 1980, 1989, 1996 and 1998, 1999, 2004, and 2014.
In 2000, he formed the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) as its president. Subsequently, in 2004 he joined the ruling United Progressive Alliance government and remained a Union Minister in Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers and Ministry of Steel. He won the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, but lost the 2009 elections. After being a member of a Rajya Sabha member from 2010 to 2014, he was elected again to the 16th Lok Sabha in the 2014 Indian general election from Hajipur constituency.
Early life and education
Paswan was born in a Dalit family in 1946 in Bihar. He belongs to Dusadh community. Paswan holds a Bachelor of Laws and a Master of Arts degrees from Kosi College, Pilkhi and Patna University. He had been selected as a DSP in Bihar police in 1969.
Paswan was elected to the Bihar state legislative assembly in 1969 as a member of the Samyukta Socialist Party ("United Socialist Party") from a reserved constituency. In 1974, as an ardent follower of Raj Narain and Jayaprakash Narayan Paswan became the general secretary of the Lok Dal. He was personally close to the prominent leaders of anti-emergency like Raj Narain, Karpoori Thakur and Satyendra Narayan Sinha. He parted ways with Morarji Desai and joined Janata Party-S led by Lokbandhu Raj Narain as party's president and later as its Chairman. In 1975, when emergency was proclaimed in India, he was arrested and spent the entire period in jail. On being released in 1977, he became a member of the Janata Party and won election to Parliament for the first time on its ticket, and he held the world record for winning the election by highest margin. He was re-elected to the 7th Lok Sabha in 1980 and 1984 from Hajipur constituency. In 1983, he established the Dalit Sena, an organisation for Dalit emancipation and welfare.
Paswan was re-elected to the 9th Lok Sabha in 1989 and was appointed Union Minister of Labour and Welfare in the Vishwanath Pratap Singh government. In 1996 he even led the ruling alliance or Proposition in the Lok Sabha as the Prime Minister was a member of the Rajya Sabha. This was also the year when he first became the Union Railway Minister. He continued to hold that post till 1998. Thereafter, he was the Union Communications Minister from October 1999 to September 2001 when he was shifted to the Coal Ministry, the portfolio he held till April 2002.
In 2000 Paswan broke from the Janata Dal, to form the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). Following the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, Paswan joined the United Progressive Alliance government and was made the Union Minister in Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers and Ministry of Steel.
In the February 2005 Bihar State elections, Paswan's party LJP along with the Indian National Congress contested the election. The result was that no particular party or alliance could form a government by itself. However, Paswan consistently refused to support either Laloo Yadav, whom he accused of being extremely corrupt, or the right-wing National Democratic Alliance thereby creating a stalemate. This stalemate was broken when Nitish Kumar succeeded in persuading 12 members of Paswan's party to defect; to prevent the formation of a government supported by LJP defectors, the Governor of Bihar, Buta Singh dissolved the state legislature and called for fresh elections, keeping Bihar under President's Rule. In the November 2005 Bihar state elections, Paswan's third-alliance was utterly devastated; the Laloo Yadav-Congress alliance reduced to a minority and the NDA formed the new government.
Paswan has declared that the Bihar state elections have no influence on the Central Government, which will continue with both him and Laloo Yadav as ministers. Paswan has served as a Union Minister under five different Prime Ministers and continuously held a cabinet berth in all the Council of Ministers formed since 1996 (as of 2015). He was also part of all the national coalitions (the United Front, the National Democratic Alliance and the United Progressive Alliance), which have formed the Indian Government from 1996 to 2015.
For the 2009 Indian general election Paswan forged an alliance with Lalu Prasad Yadav and his Rashtriya Janata Dal, while dumping their erstwhile coalition partner and leader of the United Progressive Alliance, the Indian National Congress from the new alliance. The duo was later joined by Mulayam Singh's Samajwadi Party and were declared the Fourth Front. He lost the elections from Hajipur to the Janata Dal's Ram Sundar Das, a former Chief Minister of Bihar for the first time in 33 years. His party the Lok Janshakti Party was not able to win any seats in the 15th Lok Sabha, while his coalition partner Yadav and his party too failed to perform well and were reduced to 4 seats.
He was elected as member of 16th Lok Sabha after the 2014 Indian general election from Hajipur constituency, while his son Chirag Paswan won from Jamui constituency also in Bihar.
Paswan was again given charge of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution in May 2014, which continued in Second Modi ministry in 2019.
Paswan hails from Shaharbanni village in Khagaria district of Bihar. He was born to a scheduled-caste family. He married Rajkumari Devi in 1960s. In 2014 he disclosed that he had divorced her in 1981, after his Lok Sabha nomination papers were challenged. He has two daughters from first wife, Usha and Asha. In 1983, he married Reena Sharma, an airhostess and a Punjabi Hindu from Amritsar. They have a son and a daughter. His son Chirag Paswan is an actor-turned-politician.