Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today sent a clear message to his sulking party colleague Upendra Kushwaha, saying he can remain in the party if he continues doing his work, but daily provocations mean he has made a deal somewhere.
"If someone comes and again leaves, then go. We don't care. If you stay, and work, then it's aright. But if you speak every day, it means you have made your mind somewhere else," Mr Kumar said, alluding to rumours of Mr Kushwaha being in touch with rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Mr Kumar's straight-talk comes just a day after the fellow Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader wrote an open letter attacking him for "not paying attention" towards protecting the party. Upendra Kushwaha has called a meeting of party workers on February 19 and 20 "to find a solution to save this party".
Responding to his charge, Nitish Kumar said he gave Mr Kushwaha respect and promoted his political career, and is surprised by his utterances.
"I promoted that man so much. Made him an MLA, and our party leader, then he ran away. He came back and wanted to become deputy (Chief Minister), we even sent him to the Rajya Sabha. He again left. Now he has come back for the third time, saying he will stay no matter what. Now what is he saying these days? I see in news every morning, some news from Delhi. What does it mean? We gave him respect when he came back. I was surprised," Mr Kumar said.
Mr Kushwaha has in the past complained that as parliamentary board chief of the party, he enjoyed no powers. The post was a mere "jhunjhuna" (a child's rattle), he said. He also dismissed as a "lollipop" the membership of legislative council he was rewarded with soon after returning to JD(U).
Earlier today, JD(U)'s national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh, alias Lalan Singh, announced that Mr Kushwaha is no longer the parliamentary board chief of the party.
Nitish Kumar had last month asked his disgruntled colleague to quit the JD(U). Mr Kushwaha retorted, saying that he could not leave the party without his share in the "paternal property".
Upendra Kushwaha has also denied rumours of him planning to join the BJP, saying he'd rather died.
The former Union minister has been sulking ever since Mr Kumar rebuffed speculations of his induction as Deputy Chief Minister, making it clear that ally RJD's Tejashwi Yadav will hold the post.
Mr Kushwaha, who returned to the JD(U) in 2021, merging his Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, has since been demanding that terms of the alleged deal struck with the RJD while forging an alliance in August last year be made public.