Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday suspected that Upendra Kushwaha, a key aide who has of late fallen out of favour with him, could be "in touch" with the BJP.
Nitish Kumar was replying to queries of journalists about Mr Kushwaha, the JD(U)'s disgruntled parliamentary board chief, claiming that the party had grown "weak" in recent times and that senior leaders in the party remained in touch with the BJP despite the nasty break up in August last year.
"He should name at least one leader who is in touch (with BJP). The one who himself wants to get in touch is making such allegations", snapped Mr Kumar.
"He may talk nonsense for as long as he pleases and leave the day he wishes to", added the JD(U) supremo who also rubbished Kushwaha's claim that the party had grown weak, pointing out "the latest membership drive saw our strength swell from less than 50 lakh to 75 lakh".
Mr Kushwaha returned to the JD(U) in 2021, eight years after quitting, merging his Rashtriya Lok Samata Party and besides the respectable party post, was quickly rewarded with a berth in the legislative council.
Things turned sour between the mentor and protégé recently when reports surfaced in a section of the media that Mr Kushwaha could become a Deputy CM, evoking a strong denial from Kumar who made it clear that RJD's Tejashwi Yadav would remain the sole occupant of the post.
JD(U) insiders believe that the reports might have appeared at the instance of Mr Kushwaha himself, who has a reputation for being very ambitious.
Last week, Mr Kushwaha was in Delhi to undergo a medical check up and his pictures with some BJP leaders at AIIMS went viral on social media which is being seen as a "deliberate leak" by those in support of Mr Kushwaha.
The parliamentary board chief was snubbed by the party on Tuesday when he was not invited to a function attended by the chief minister and most other leaders of consequence in JD(U).
The function saw the Chief Minister, in his address, making a veiled reference to Mr Kushwaha planning to desert the party, again, wherein he was rehabilitated after spending a long time in political wilderness.
"He never conveyed to me if he had any unfulfilled ambitions. He may go wherever he likes. Though here he enjoys respect", Mr Kumar had told reporters on the sidelines of the function when they requested him for a more direct comment.
Mr Kushwaha has made it clear that he "will never become a member of the BJP" but remained evasive on the question of floating a party and joining the NDA ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)