Tejashwi Yadav and Rahul Gandhi, the star speakers for the opposition Mahagathbandhan in Bihar, have yet to share a stage for the national election campaign. It speaks volumes about the alliance as the country preps for the third round of voting tomorrow.
Rahul Gandhi has addressed three meetings, including in Gaya for ally Jeetan Ram Manjhi, and two for Congress candidates Uday Singh in Purnea and Ranjeeta Ranjan in Supaul. Tejashwi Yadav's absence was a standout feature in all these rallies, which fueled speculation that all is not well.
After the rally in Supaul on Saturday, BJP's Bihar president Nityanand Rai questioned why, given that Tejashwi Yadav was campaigning not far from there.
In contrast, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shared the stage often with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan during the campaign.
On Monday, at a joint press conference of the opposition alliance in Patna, Tejashwi Yadav RSVP-ed his presence in the next Rahul Gandhi rally, in Samastipur.
Congress sources confirmed that Tejashwi, the younger son of jailed RJD leader Lalu Yadav, had requested rallies by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra - Rahul Gandhi's sister and Congress general secretary -- for the remaining four phases.
The two leaders, seen in the past sharing a meal at a popular Delhi eatery, reportedly had disagreements over seat sharing in Bihar, and even neighbouring Jharkhand.
Tejashwi denied any problem. He has campaigned for all the opposition candidates except Ranjeeta Ranjan, the Congress candidate from Supaul. It could be because her husband Pappu Yadav, despite several requests, continues to be in the contest from Madhepura, which may well spoil the chances of Sharad Yadav, who is contesting as an RJD candidate.
But sources say after Tejashwi, who was leading the seat-sharing talks, stubbornly offered just nine seats to the Congress, it upset top party leaders including Rahul Gandhi.
The tussle over the Chatra seat in Jharkhand, and Supaul and Madhepura in Bihar, has exacerbated the friction.
Also Madhubani, where former Union Minister and senior Congress leader Shakeel Ahmad wanted to contest. The seat was allotted to the Vikassheel Insan Party (VIP) led by Mukesh Sahni, believed to be close to Tejashwi. Mr Sahni will contest on the RJD symbol.
Shakeel Ahmed eventually quit the Congress and decided to contest as an independent candidate.
Congress sources, denying any rift, point out that Tejashwi was present at the party's rally in Gandhi Maidan in February, where Rahul Gandhi made it clear that the alliance will continue and Tejashwi Yadav would be its face.
Bihar is voting in all phases of the seven-round election till May 19. The results will be declared on May 23.
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