Stung by an impatient dismissal of his comment that Nitish Kumar was planning to give up the Bihar chief minister's position after the 2020 state elections, Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) chief Upendra Kushwaha today cited a controversial three-year-old jibe by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attack him.
"Nitishji, you have said that you are my elder brother. Then why have you relegated me to this lowly station while you stand on a high pedestal saying that I am not worthy of comment?" the Union Minister asked the chief minister at an event in Bihar's Muzaffarpur.
The RLSP chief, a wily member of the ruling NDA who has made no bones about his proximity to the opposition, was responding to Mr Kumar saying in an interview that he did not want the discourse to be "brought down" by addressing Mr Kushwaha's 2020 remark.
Mr Kushwaha said the Prime Minister himself had declared that there was something wrong with Mr Kumar's DNA. "Back then, you promised to send some DNA samples to him. The report must have come out by now, so why don't you share it?" he asked.
Back in 2015, when the Janata Dal (United) was aligned with Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal in the run-up to the state assembly polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taunted Mr Kumar by suggesting that his inability to respect others shows there is something wrong with his DNA.
The RLSP, with two members in the Bihar legislative assembly, shares an uneasy relationship with Mr Kumar's party. A day after the BJP and the Janata Dal (United) arrived at a 50-50 seat-sharing formula on October 26, Mr Kushwaha met up with opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav. Later, he reiterated his allegiance to the NDA only after being assured that his party will not be left in the cold as far as seat distributon is concerned.
In August this year, he raised many eyebrows by declaring that "delicious kheer can be made with milk from Yadavs, rice from Kushwahas and dry fruits from the Economically Backward Groups", a statement that many believed was an oblique hint at a potential realignment in Bihar politics before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. He later denied insinuating any such thing.
Mr Kushwaha's latest statement, which many see as yet another sign that he is on his way out of the ruling alliance, follows the Janata Dal (United)'s sharp rebuttal to his statement, saying that there was no question of Mr Kumar resigning because the chief minister's post was not a "rasgulla" to be taken and dropped at will.