In a indication of growing strife between National Democratic Alliance allies in Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday said any Janata Dal (United) leader was free to quit the party and join the Bharatiya Janata Party.
"Anybody wanting to quit JD(U) can do so and join BJP," he told reporters in reply to a question.
The chief minister's comments assumes significance in the wake of war of words between the state leaders of JD(U) and BJP, with each claiming that the leaders of the other party, including MLAs and MPs, were willing to join them.
The strife between the two long standing allies had intensified after former BJP MLC Sanjay Jha quit his party and joined JD(U) in the presence of the chief minister last week.
The lower rung state BJP leaders had assailed Jha for quitting the party to join JD(U) and described him as an "opportunist" and warned the alliance partner against taking into fold unscrupulous leaders like Jha as they could also ditch it any time.
The JD(U) leaders had hit back at the BJP and said several saffron party leaders, including MPs and MLAs, were in regular touch with Jha and other JD(U) leaders and willing to cross over any time.
The state unit BJP president C P Thakur had claimed that a number of JD(U) leaders too were in touch with the BJP and wanted to join his party.