Nitish Kumar is suffering from insecurity following speculation about BJP backing for his rebellion, Chirag Paswan indicated on Thursday, saying despite multiple reassurances by the BJP, "the Chief Minister is not satisfied". Asked if the confusion deepened over Prime Minister Narendra Modi's silence on the issue, he said, "I think Nitish Kumar was eagerly waiting for PM, as he wanted know what he will say here". PM Modi has held six rallies so far in the state.
The 37-year-old's rebellion against Mr Kumar's leadership came at the end of months of his criticism about the government and the Chief Minister's handling of several issues, including that of the migrant labourers during the lockdown. That the BJP has not taken any action against him despite more provocations, has fed the impression that the party is surreptitiously backing his stance – a situation the opposition has found a source of deep political capital.
Mr Paswan on Thursday pointed to the repeated statements from the BJP about Nitish Kumar being the face of the campaign and that the NDA has nothing to do with parties that do not accept his leadership.
"It is beyond my understanding that when BJP leaders prove daily that they have nothing to with Chirag, still the Chief Minister is not satisfied," Chirag Paswan told NDTV on Thursday.
Then, in a sarcastic note, he added: "I don't think he will be satisfied even if the Prime Minister says so. After the PM, he would like to hear from the President, the Presidents of other nations and then the American President Donald Trump for his satisfaction that they have nothing to do with Chirag".
The BJP, after its initial joint press conference declaring Mr Kumar as its only Chief Ministerial candidate, is seen as cultivating a distance from him. Few leaders of the party had turned up to share dais with Mr Kumar or participated in his Janata Dal United's rallies. The stance was reciprocated by the JDU and for a while both parties were seen as running separate campaigns.
The opposition was quick to pick up on the issue, alleging that the BJP was ready to ditch Nitish Kumar as he was becoming a political liability following deep anger among voters over his alleged lack of support for migrant workers, the lack of jobs and development and corruption.
Following the opposition's jeers, PM Modi and Mr Kumar were found sharing space in the ruling NDA's campaign posters and ads on Wednesday as the first phase of the elections was held.
Off the record, a section of BJP leaders have admitted that they hope to gain better results by projecting PM Modi as the face of the NDA in the state. With Chirag Paswan's championing of right-wing politics, there is also hope that backing him will help BJP gain as much grassroot support in secular Bihar at it did in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.
Mr Paswan – who claims he stands for a "Nitish-mukt Bihar and wishes to see a BJP candidate at the helm – has repeatedly declared loyalty to the BJP and PM Modi.