PATNA: Amid speculations of a rift in the ruling 'Mahagathbandhan' in Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Friday attended the high tea ceremony held at the Raj Bhavan here on the occasion of the Republic Day with his deputy Tejashwi Yadav of the RJD remaining conspicuous by absence.
The seat next to that of Kumar was occupied by senior JD(U) leader and minister Ashok Kumar Choudhary who removed the slip said to be bearing the name of Yadav before occupying the chair.
Leader of the opposition in the assembly, Vijay Kumar Sinha of the BJP, sat next to Choudhary and he was seen exchanging pleasantries with Kumar.
The high tea was organised on the occasion of Republic Day.
Though education minister Alok Kumar Mehta, who is also a national general secretary of the RJD, was among the attendees, Yadav and many other party leaders, including Speaker Awadh Bihari Chaudhary, did not turn up.
When Kumar was approached with queries about Yadav's absence at the function, he gave a curt reply, "Ask those who did not turn up (jo nahin aaye unse puchhiye), and drove back to his official residence."
Speculations are rife that Kumar was unhappy with the Mahagathbandhan, which includes the Congress and the RJD with three Left parties supporting the government from outside.
There are also rumours that he might be planning a return to the BJP-led NDA, though leaders of the saffron party have maintained that doors were closedfor the JD(U) supremo.
JD(U) leaders have also been maintaining that the party was firmly with" the opposition bloc INDIA.
However, when Sinha was approached with queries by journalists after the function was over, he replied, "I am here in my capacity as the leader of the opposition. I have no knowledge about the truth behind the speculations. The BJP is a party in which decisions are taken collectively, by the leadership. We will all abide by whatever decision is taken."
Notably, Sinha was also present at a meeting of Bihar BJP leaders held at Union Home Minister Amit Shah's residence in Delhi late Thursday night.
He also declined to comment on the rumours of a rift in the 'Mahagathbandhan', saying It is a question you should ask members of the coalition.
During a period of uncertainty for the ruling JD(U)-RJD-Congress alliance in Bihar, there is widespread speculation in political circles that Nitish Kumar may rejoin the NDA. Sources have indicated that the swearing-in of the Bihar CM, with the support of the BJP, is nearly confirmed.
According to JD(U) sources, Sushil Kumar Modi is set to be sworn in as the deputy CM, reported Indian Express.
The oath-taking ceremony will be taking place on Sunday, the sources added.
Amid discussions about a growing division, the RJD and JD(U) held individual meetings on Thursday, while the BJP state president Samrat Choudhary traveled to Delhi to engage in talks with senior BJP leaders. Former BJP deputy chief minister Renu Devi accompanied him on the trip.
In the Bihar Assembly of 243, the RJD has 79 MLAs; followed by the BJP’s 78; the JD(U)’s 45’ the Congress’s 19, the CPI (M-L)’s 12, two each of the CPI(M) and CPI, the Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular)’s four seats, and the AIMIM’s one, plus one Independent legislator.
With inputs from agencies