The BJP today looked set to breach the last wall in the Hindi-belt by emerging as the largest party in Bihar, a state where it has never had a Chief Minister, as votes were counted in Bihar today. Importantly for the ruling party, it zoomed ahead of partner Nitish Kumar, the five-time Chief Minister who is the face of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
While the NDA surged ahead of the Tejashwi Yadav-led opposition mahagathbandhan and crossed the half-way mark in leads, Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United (JDU) was a big drag on the ruling coalition's numbers.
The BJP has always played second fiddle in Bihar to Nitish Kumar.
If the trend continues, this result may deprive Nitish Kumar of Big Brother status in the alliance and he may emerge greatly diminished. Whether he can take chief ministership for granted - or whether he will want to rule as junior partner -- are questions for later.
This time round, the Bihar campaign was prickly for the decades-old allies.
In 2015, Nitish Kumar had fought with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Yadav and Congress. Two years before that, he had broken off ties with long-time ally BJP over its projection of Narendra Modi as prime ministerial candidate.
Nitish Kumar held out when the BJP came to power at the centre with a massive mandate for Narendra Modi.
But his alliance with the RJD and Congress soured quickly and in the middle of 2017, he resigned, dumped his partners and reembraced the BJP.
In his recapitulation and acceptance of PM Modi's leadership, Nitish Kumar lost his sheen. But despite kinks, the reunited NDA carried on for three more years.
Along the way, the BJP repeatedly dismissed speculation that it was trying to discard Nitish Kumar and insisted that Nitish Kumar was the NDA's chief ministerial candidate.
However, NDA ally Chirag Paswan spoilt the picture again by announcing a solo battle with the single purpose of defeating Nitish Kumar. Chirag Paswan maintained throughout that he remained devoted to PM Modi and hoped to form a government with the BJP sans Nitish Kumar. He was even heard in rallies appealing for votes either for PM Modi or his own Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).
To Nitish Kumar's chagrin, counters to Chirag Paswan only came from the Bihar BJP. The silence of the top leadership in Delhi and its refusal to tell off young Paswan indicated that he was the BJP's Plan B. It also served to reinforce the impression that the BJP wants to cut Nitish Kumar down to size.
A section of the BJP in Bihar has been upset about the spillover effect of anger against Nitish Kumar over jobs, the migrants crisis and the handling of the coronavirus.
But it is Chirag Paswan who seemed to have done the most damage to Nitish Kumar's party. He had put up candidates in all seats being contested by the JDU. So while the BJP won big, the Paswan factor hurt Nitish Kumar.
"Chirag Paswan should have been denounced and controlled from the start," said JDU spokesperson KC Tyagi said, avoiding naming the BJP.
Mr Tyagi said the JDU would not accept Chirag Paswan if he tried to be a part of the NDA again.
"Should that situation arise, then it is for two leaders Modi-ji and Nitish-ji to decide what the future course would be. Personally, I can tell you this that every single JDU party worker is hurt by the comments made by Chirag Paswan," he said.