Amit Shah, campaigning in Bihar for polls later this year, said on Thursday that he wanted to "end all rumours" by declaring that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition would contest under the leadership of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The Union Home Minister also said his party BJP's alliance with Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United (JDU) is "unbreakable".
"I want to end all rumours by declaring this here in the open -- the next assembly election in Bihar will be fought under the leadership of Nitish Kumar," Amit Shah said at a rally in Vaishali.
This is not the first time Mr Shah, the BJP chief, put out such a clarification. In fact, it is the third in so many months. The reiteration, that too in Bihar, is meant to send out a strong signal to a section within the BJP and the NDA that has been targeting Nitish Kumar.
Ties between the BJP and JDU have been patchy of late.
Reports say Nitish Kumar's stand on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the National Register for Citizens (NRC) has worried the BJP.
For the first time in the month since the new religion-based citizenship law was enforced, the Bihar Chief Minister on Monday acknowledged protests against the law across the country and said he was ready for a debate on it in the state assembly. He also categorically ruled out carrying out the NRC in Bihar, saying there was "no question" of enforcing it in his state. Till then, only non-BJP states had said no to NRC.
He also said he would clear his stand on the National Population Register (NPR), which has been stopped by states like Bengal and Kerala on grounds that it is a precursor to the NRC. Critics fear that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) -- which eases the path for non-Muslims in the neighbouring Muslim-majority nations of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to become Indian citizens -- along with the NRC will discriminate against Muslims.
Mr Kumar said there were some issues with the questionnaire prepared for NPR.
BJP leaders are hopeful that he will play a supporting partner on the citizenship row, the way he did when he backed the citizenship bill in parliament even after objecting to it.
Mr Shah's words of assurance are significant in this backdrop. At the rally, he also accused the opposition parties of engineering the anti-CAA protests. "This is the reason why the BJP took upon itself to hold rallies across the country... to apprise people about their nefarious designs," he said.
The Home Minister also took a swipe at RJD chief Lalu Yadav, commenting that he was "dreaming" of becoming chief minister even in jail.
The BJP and JDU had sparred recently when severe floods hit Bihar last year, leaving 200 people dead and property worth crores destroyed.
Mr Kumar was said to be resentful about the fact that the Bihar government asked for Rs 4,000 crore for flood relief but was allocated only Rs 400 crore last week.