Sending out a call to unite all opposition parties to take on the BJP as a "main front" in the 2024 general elections, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday gave a special shoutout to Sukhbir Singh Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal.
At a mega rally organised by the Chautalas of Haryana in Fatehabad, Mr Kumar said, "(Sukhbir) Badal sahab is also present here. I appeal to him folded hands to join us... Your father (former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal) used to hold us in high regard."
Sukhbir Badal was seen returning Mr Kumar's smile and holding up folded hands as well.
At the rally, he too joined the call for opposition parties to form a united front, saying the Akalis along with the Shiv Sena and the JD(U) are the "real NDA (National Democratic Alliance)" as they had founded the coalition.
He said it is the time for "all like-minded parties to unite under the flag of farmers and labourers and work for their welfare".
"The real NDA is sitting here, it was founded by Shiv Sena, Akali Dal and JD(U). We stood by BJP when it was a relatively smaller party. But now it is time to forge an alliance for farmers and labourers," Mr Badal said.
But Nitish Kumar's appeal extended to the long-time rivals of the Akalis, the Congress, and the Left too. "There is no question of a Third Front. There should be one front that includes the Congress. Then we can trounce the BJP in 2024," Mr Kumar said.
Besides the Bihar leader and Mr Badal, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav, Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant, the Left's Sitaram Yechury were attending the rally in Haryana.
No one from the Congress, a staunch rival of Chautalas' Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) in Haryana, attended the rally. Regional heavyweights like West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, who have leaned towards a non-Congress alliance in the past, also stayed away from the rally, besides Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav.
However, after the rally, Nitish Kumar and his rival-turned-ally-turned-rival-turned-ally Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi at her residence in Delhi.