Tejashwi Yadav, the arch-critic of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, was nowhere to be seen as the assembly session started in Bihar today. This is the second time in as many weeks that the young leader has taken off, leaving his party -- and this time apparently his family - in the dark regarding his whereabouts. Asked where he has gone, his visibly angry mother, Rabri Devi, snapped at a journalist: "To your house".
The gap in the opposition ranks at the beginning of the assembly session -- and an encephalitis outbreak that has made the government vulnerable - has left the leaders of his Rashtriya Janata Dal red faced.
Many admitted in private that the Yadav Junior has not taken the loss in the elections well. He has been behaving like a reluctant politician, proving that he is not deserving of the trust and responsibility placed on him by his parents.
The 29-year-old political heir of Lalu Yadav has been tasked with steering the party in the absence of his father. Lalu Yadav has been in jail since December 2017, sentenced in more than one corruption case. But under Tejashwi Yadav, the party - and the opposition alliance it led -- performed abysmally in the recently concluded national election, failing to win even a single of the state's 40 seats.
A section of leaders said if Tejashwi Yadav failed to hold the party together at this difficult juncture, a negative outcome is inevitable. Several legislators even said with Lalu Yadav in jail and Tejaswi Yadav in Delhi, it was time to rethink their future.
With rivalry brewing between Tejashwi and elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav from time to time, the party sailed close to a split more than once in the last months. That it weathered the storm was because Lalu Yadav and Rabri Devi made it clear whom they wanted at the helm, party leaders had indicated.
When Tejashwi Yadav took off last month, senior party leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh had speculated that he had gone to the UK to watch the cricket World Cup. But a day later, party leader Manoj Jha said he had gone to Delhi but was keeping a close watch on the encephalitis outbreak.
A leader close to Tejashwi Yadav, Bhai Virendra, said he is in Delhi but not in good health. He will return once he is better. There, however, was no independent confirmation of this.
Last year, Tejashwi Yadav's older brother Tej Pratap Yadav had also gone off for weeks after a massive tantrum about divorcing his wife. Within months of his return, there was a repeat performance, this time over two Lok Sabha seats.