Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday said he might not campaign for the by-elections to a couple of assembly segments in the state where his current ally Rashtriya Janata Dal is locked in a straight contest with his former alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party.
Kumar, who is nursing injuries he sustained recently when his motorboat crashed into the pillar of a bridge on the Ganga, said this in reply to questions from journalists who asked him about his schedule for Mokama and Gopalganj where by-polls are scheduled on November 3.
"All my party colleagues are campaigning. I need to take precautions till I recover fully," said the Janata Dal-United leader, who had disclosed his injury on Wednesday.
The mishap had taken place on October 15 and the administration had said that all the occupants of the motorboat were safe.
Speculations are rife that the RJD, which seeks to retain Mokama and wrest Gopalganj from the BJP, is keen on Kumar lending his weight to its campaign for the two seats.
Meanwhile, the BJP claimed that Kumar was feeling "uncomfortable" in the 'Mahagathbandhan' and had, hence, "cleverly" come up with an excuse.
"He can visit temples, attend government functions, but injury comes in the way of only an election campaign? Nitish Kumar has shrewdly avoided the huge embarrassment that would have awaited him, particularly at Mokama," remarked state BJP spokesperson Nikhil Anand.
Notably, the by-poll in Mokama was necessitated by the disqualification of RJD MLA Anant Kumar Singh whose wife Neelam Devi has been fielded by the party.
The BJP spokesperson recounted Singh's old association with Kumar which ended in the 2015 assembly polls. The gangster-turned-politician had won Mokama on a JD-U ticket thrice, before retaining it as an Independent and again, in 2020, as an RJD candidate.
Anand also chuckled at a roadshow in favour of Neelam Devi by Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan, the JD-U president, recalling Anant Singh's belligerent campaign against the latter in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls when his wife had contested against the then NDA candidate on a Congress ticket.
The JD-U ceased to be an NDA ally in August, accusing the BJP of trying to split the party. It is now part of a seven-party 'Mahagathbandhan' comprising RJD, Congress, three Left parties and former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi's Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM).
The by-elections mark the first test of strength between the expanded 'Mahagathbandhan' and an emaciated NDA in the state.
According to the RJD, its heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav, who is also the state's deputy CM, will be in Gopalganj on Friday to address an election rally.
The by-election in Gopalganj, which falls in the eponymous district, was necessitated by the death of four-term BJP MLA Subhash Singh whose wife Kusum Devi is in the fray as the party candidate.
Gopalganj happens to be the native district of RJD president Lalu Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi, a fact underscored proudly by Tejashwi Yadav, who is their younger son.
The RJD has fielded Mohan Gupta, who belongs to the Vaishya community, in an obvious bid to upset the caste equations worked on by the BJP which is often the first choice of the traders' class.
Nonetheless, the pitch has been queered by the foray of Indira Yadav, wife of Rabri Devi's brother Sadhu Yadav who had won the seat for RJD in 2000 and was the runner-up in 2020 when he had contested on a ticket of the BSP.
Sadhu Yadav fell out with his sister long back and has been disqualified from contesting elections upon his conviction by a court earlier this year in a case of misbehavior with an IAS officer.
His wife is in the fray as the candidate of the BSP, not a force to reckon with in Bihar though her husband's ability to garner some votes on his own steam may affect the outcome in a tight contest.