The BJP can ill-afford the very public rift between two of its top leaders Narendra Modi and Sushma Swaraj and the party president Nitin Gadkari has now intervened, asking Swaraj not to make remarks that hurt. This after an upset Modi complained.
Sushma Swaraj brought an old rivalry into the public domain when she was asked why Narendra Modi wasn't campaigning in Bihar. She retorted, "The Modi magic doesn't work everywhere."
Modi's response came via a supporter in Karnataka, Leher Singh. Giant ads in newspapers on Wednesday declared "Modi is the top crowd-puller for the BJP."
Modi was reportedly irked by Sushma's direct attack, but the party's senior-most leaders refused to intervene then.
"I know a lot of people thought it has to do with Sushmaji's statement but this is just a genuine, innocent ad," said Lehar Singh.
Modi's message is clear - he is a leader of national stature. A point he has been keen to make since Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar declared his state off-limits to Modi. Keen to protect his secular image and woo the sizeable Muslim vote, Nitish told his political partner, the BJP, that Modi could not feature in the campaign for the Bihar elections.
Modi's rivalry with Sushma Swaraj has been a faultline within the BJP for a while. It's the sort of infighting that the BJP wanted relative outsider Nitin Gadkari to eliminate when he was appointed party president.
Sources have told NDTV that an angry Narendra Modi complained to Gadkari about Sushma Swaraj's remarks. Gadkari has reportedly taken up the matter with Swaraj, and asked her to refrain from making such comments.
By retaliating via Karnataka, Modi has taken his battle to Sushma's home turf. She's known to be close to the Reddy brothers - mining barons and ministers in the BJP's state government. Last year, the Reddys almost split the Karnataka BJP when they engineered a massive revolt against Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa. The man who gloats that he placed the Modi ad is a Yeddyurappa loyalist. Even Modi and Sushma's proxy battle is via opposing camps.