Speculations about Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's return to the BJP-led NDA have received a thumbs down from his deputy Tejashwi Yadav, who asserted that the 'Mahagathbandhan' is going strong.
Yadav, who is the heir apparent of the RJD, the largest constituent of the ruling coalition, also said that his party enjoyed the full support of alliance partners and looked forward to winning by-elections to two assembly seats – Mokama and Gopalganj -- scheduled to be held next week.
"It was decided by all coalition partners that we contest both seats. Mokama is our sitting seat while Gopalganj is my native district. We are confident of a Mahagathbandhan victory at both places," Yadav told reporters on Monday at Jehanabad, where he had gone to attend the death anniversary of a deceased party colleague.
The by-poll at Mokama has been necessitated by disqualification of Anant Kumar Singh, who has been convicted in cases relating to arms and explosives recovered from his residences. His wife Neelam Devi has got the party ticket.
In Gopalganj, BJP candidate Kusum Devi's bid to retain the seat of her late husband Subhash Singh has been challenged by the RJD's Mohan Gupta.
Yadav was also asked about the fresh rounds of conjecture about Kumar, which have been triggered by the CM’s former close aide Prashant Kishor, who has alleged that the JD(U) leader had not asked MP Harivansh to resign as Rajya Sabha deputy chairman as he wanted to keep options open.
Former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, whose Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) is an ally of the 'Mahagathbandhan', recently ended up lending weight to the speculations by saying that he will support Kumar for any such decision if it was taken in the state's interests.
Manjhi was sitting beside Yadav while the deputy CM replied to queries from journalists.
"Manjhi is our senior; he is like a guardian ('abhibhavak'). Our coalition is rock solid and he feels the same," remarked Yadav while the HAM leader nodded in approval.
"We drove the BJP out of power and have been running a strong and stable government. There is no room for any misgivings though those with vested interests may keep spreading rumors," added the deputy CM.