Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has admitted that he was taken aback by ally BJP's decision to drop Saryu Roy, his old friend and senior BJP leader, as a candidate for the Jharkhand election.
Saryu Roy, who was a minister in the incumbent BJP government in Jharkhand, is contesting as an independent after being snubbed by his party. He quit the government and the state assembly last Monday.
He has picked the Jamshedpur East constituency of Chief Minister Raghubar Das for the contest, from where he has the support of the JMM and All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU). Raghubar Das of the BJP has won five times from the constituency.
Nitish Kumar, talking to reporters, said Saryu Roy was an old friend he had known for 40 years, since their college days.
"We made several offers to Saryu Roy to come back to Bihar politics but he never responded," said the Chief Minister.
Asked why he's not campaigning for Saryu Roy, Nitish Kumar said he was clear that he would not go to Jharkhand to campaign even for his own party candidates.
There has been speculation over the past week that Nitish Kumar would campaign for Saryu Roy, especially after the Chief Minister's Janata Dal United withdrew its candidate from the Jamshedpur East contest.
The JDU has also announced that its alliance with the BJP is limited to Bihar and that the two parties are contesting separately in Jharkhand, which was carved out of Bihar in 2000.
Nitish Kumar's words will help Mr Roy, who accused the BJP of cutting him loose because of his closeness to the Bihar Chief Minister. He had also suggested that BJP president Amit Shah had been openly displeased about Nitish Kumar releasing his book in 2017.
A section of Bihar BJP leaders have always been critical of Saryu Roy for defending Nitish Kumar, even when they had demanded that his role in the fodder scam should be investigated.