Just hours before a formal media briefing of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar today, the BJP put out an emphatic statement in support of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. "Only those who accept Nitish Kumar's leadership in Bihar will stay in the NDA," said the BJP's Bihar chief in an apparent message to ally Chirag Paswan, who recently declared his party would contest on its own and fight Nitish Kumar in this month's state polls.
"The NDA leader in Bihar is Nitish Kumar. The BJP embraces his leadership in Bihar and all in NDA must accept his leadership. The BJP will make every effort to make him the Chief Minister. Nitish Kumar will become Chief Minister with three-fourth majority," Bihar BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal said.
After the short statement, he walked out without taking any questions.
Sources say the clarification, coming three days since Chirag Paswan's move, was ordered by the party's top leadership.
एनडीए के पटना में 5 बजे संवादाता सम्मेलन के पूर्व संजय जायसवाल ने सफ़ाई दी ‘ बिहार में NDA के नेता नीतीश कुमार जी है और गठबंधन में सारी बातें नीतीश कुमार के नेतृत्व में हो रहा हैं और NDA गठबंधन में वहीं रहेंगे जो नीतीश कुमार के नेतृत्व को स्वीकार करेंगे @Suparna_Singh pic.twitter.com/GdJQMBeykq— manish (@manishndtv) October 6, 2020
The party will also make it clear to Chirag Paswan that his Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) cannot use images of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during its campaign.
Chirag Paswan has said that while he remains firmly with the BJP and PM Modi, he will fight Nitish Kumar's candidates and ensure his defeat.
"Nitish Kumar doesn't listen to anyone. Our alliance with Nitish Kumar was a compulsion. I have been opposed to him since 2013, when I entered politics," Mr Paswan told NDTV this morning.
In his move to go solo, many saw the BJP's tacit blessings. The BJP, it was speculated, would use this card to keep Nitish Kumar in check.
But Nitish Kumar and his Janata Dal United (JDU) have reportedly been upset about Chirag Paswan's open attacks and the BJP's apparent lack of response to it. Days later, the Paswans - Chirag Paswan's father Ram Vilas Paswan is a central minister - still remain in the NDA.
Last evening, the BJP and Nitish Kumar finalized a 50:50 seat share deal for the 243-seat Bihar assembly.
But Chirag Paswan's unrelenting attacks have apparently rankled the BJP's main Bihar ally and compelled the BJP to make a public gesture of support, however belated.
"Our alliance with LJP is in Delhi, not in Bihar. BJP's alliance in Bihar is with JDU," said a Bihar BJP leader.
He also said the LJP's slogan was not acceptable: "Modi se bair nahin, Nitish teri khair nahin (We have no differences with Modi, but Nitish, you are gone)".