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Chirag Paswan shared that when his father’s body was flown from Delhi to Patna, Nitish Kumar was at the airport to pay tribute but did not acknowledge him. “I touched his feet and he ignored me. Everyone saw that. I am shocked that because of our personal feelings, we even forget basic shishtachar(courtesy).”

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has been at the receiving end of barbs from opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav as well as ally-turned-rival Chirag Paswan in the Bihar election campaign. The only factor that could make the situation worse for him would be for the two to join forces.

Tejashwi Yadav’s remarks Monday morning attacking Nitish Kumar referenced Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Chirag Paswan, who is contesting separately from the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and insists he remains a BJP ally even though he is fighting the Chief Minister in the polls. “What Nitish Kumar Ji did with Chirag Paswan was not good. Chirag Paswan needs his father at this time more than ever before but Ram Vilas Paswan is not among us and we are sad about it. The way Nitish Kumar behaved, did injustice to Chirag Paswan,” the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief told reporters.

The comment comes three days after Chirag Paswan, in an interview with NDTV, talked about feeling hurt by Nitish Kumar’s stance after his father and former Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s death. The Chief Minister, he claimed, had snubbed him and had not said a word of condolence to him or his mother.

Many see the strategy behind Tejashwi’s comments in support of Chirag Paswan. Their fathers were old associates and both share a history with Nitish Kumar as part of the socialist movement.

When Ram Vilas Paswan died on October 8, Tejashwi’s father Lalu Yadav expressed grief and his mother Rabri Devi, also a former Chief Minister said the family was in mourning. Nitish Kumar also paid tribute but apparently cold-shouldered Chirag Paswan, who has criticized him relentlessly over the past few months.

With Nitish Kumar as their common enemy, Tejashwi and Chirag Paswan are widely believed to have an understanding of the RJD leader’s Raghopur constituency. Sources say Chirag Paswan has fielded a Rajput candidate at the seat for the express purpose of cutting into the BJP’s upper-caste vote base, which will help Tejashwi Yadav.

The BJP candidate against Tejashwi Yadav is Satish Yadav, who was dubbed a giant killer when he defeated Rabri Devi in 2010. He had contested as a candidate of Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United at the time.

The Rajput votes that usually go to the BJP are a crucial decider in the seat. If Chirag Paswan’s candidate cuts into the ruling coalition’s votes, then Tejashwi will sail through.

Bihar votes for a new 243-member assembly on October 28, November 3 and 7. The results will be declared on November 10.    

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