Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday drew effusive praise from his deputy Sushil Kumar Modi, who compared the JD(U) national president to a cricketer scoring well and helping his team to beat rivals and, hence, did not deserve to be replaced as the skipper.
Modi, a senior BJP leader, made the remarks on his official Twitter handle in an apparent rebuff to party MLC Sanjay Paswan, who has caused a flutter by having advocated, two days ago, a change of guard after the assembly polls in the state next year.
@NitishKumar is the Captain of NDA in Bihar & will remain its Captain in next assembly elections in 2020 also. When Captain is hitting 4 & 6 & defeating rivals by inning where is the Q of any change, said Modi in his tweet which stood out for uncharacteristically being in English and colloquial in tone.
Paswan, a former Union minister, who has for long remained sidelined in the party, had suggested on Monday that Kumar should shift his attention to central politics, leaving the state to "second rung of the JD(U)" and that the BJP should be allowed to have one of its own leaders as the Chief Minister after the 2020 assembly elections.
His statement had evoked, predictably, angry reactions from the JD(U), which seems all geared up for the assembly polls next year coining slogans asserting the political indispensability of Nitish Kumar.
The tweet by the Deputy CM remained a hotly discussed topic among political circles during the day and rumours were afloat that the gesture of Modi, who is known to be close to Kumar, has been frowned upon by the central BJP leadership leading to "deletion" of the tweet.
However, his close aides refuted the rumours pointing out that the tweet was very much on Modis official twitter handle and once deleted it could not have been retrieved.
This is not the first time when the Deputy CM has gone out of way to express solidarity with Kumar whom he has known since their days in student politics in the 1970s.
In July, Sushil Modi had stated on the floor of the state assembly in a rare gesture that the NDA would contest the 2020 assembly polls under the leadership of Kumar.
After a stunning performance in the general election when NDA won 39 out of a total of 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar, all eyes are now set on the state polls at the end of next year.
Meanwhile, a senior Congress leader said the entire episode underscored "a trust deficit that exists between the JD(U) and BJP, else there would have been no need for Sushil Modi to come up with explanations".
"There cannot be smoke without fire. The relationship between the two parties today is like a glass in which a crack has appeared. No amount of polishing can erase it", BPCC working president Kaukab Qadri told PTI.
The BJP and the JD(U) may have been alliance partners since the 1990s, but neither can forget the bitterness and acrimony of 2013 when they had parted ways. Political exigency may have led the two parties to swallow pride and join hands.
But even a man on the street knows that the ascendant BJP will not forgo a chance to avenge past humiliation, Qadri said.
In June, 2013 soon after the BJP declared Narendra Modi then the Gujarat Chief Minister as the chief of its campaign committee, Kumar snapped ties with the party and quit the NDA.
He returned to the coalition in 2017 after walking out of a short-lived alliance with the Congress and the RJD headed by arch rival Lalu Prasad.