The Bharatiya Janata Party had invited Lok Janshakti Party president Chirag Paswan to attend the National Democratic Alliance meeting on Saturday to discuss the ruling bloc's agenda for the budget session of Parliament, but the Janata Dal-United's protest to the move is likely to have prompted him to skip the event.
LJP sources said Paswan did not attend the virtual meeting due to health reasons, and noted he had also skipped the all-party meet held earlier in the day.
The invite to Paswan from parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi to the meeting of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies assumes significance as this made it clear that the LJP remains a member of the National Democratic Alliance despite walking out of the alliance in Bihar during the state assembly polls.
JD-U spokesperson K C Tyagi put on record his party's stand against the LJP, telling PTI that it does not consider Paswan's party a member of the NDA.
"The LJP had worked against the NDA's official candidates in the assembly elections. It did not work merely against the JD-U but also against candidates of the BJP and two other allies -- Vikassheel Insaan Party and Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular. This caused a lot of harm to the NDA," Tyagi said.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi had himself said (during the polls) the NDA in Bihar is working under chief minister Nitish Kumar's leadership and this includes the VIP and the HAM. Therefore, we do not consider the LJP a part of the NDA," he added.
Sources said the resentment within the NDA over the decision to invite Paswan to the meeting prompted its top leaders to dissuade him from attending the meeting.
A JD-U leader, who did not wish to be named, claimed that the invitation was "withdrawn" but there was no confirmation to this from the BJP, the principal NDA constituent.
Former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi-led HAM, which is close to the JD-U, condemned the decision to invite the LJP to the NDA meeting.
"This is not appropriate at all. The LJP stabbed the NDA in the back during the polls. Manjhi Ji will now decide whether to continue to stay in the NDA," party spokesperson Danish Rizwan said.
The LJP had walked out of the NDA in Bihar last year due to its opposition to Nitish Kumar and contested the state assembly polls on its own. It put up candidates in all the seats where the JD-U was in the
fray while largely spared the BJP except for a few seats.
Though the LJP could win only one seat in the Bihar polls, it inflicted serious damage on the JD-U, whose tally fell to 43 from 71, triggering a backlash from Kumar's party, with some of its leaders questioning if
Paswan could still be in the NDA at the Centre.
A vocal supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Paswan has maintained that he remains an ally of the BJP at the Centre.
Senior leaders of the saffron party had also criticised him for fielding candidates against the JD-U in the Bihar polls.
The invite to Paswan for the NDA meeting indicates that the BJP, which has lost a few key allies, continues to see the LJP, which was founded by towering Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan, as a partner.