Bihar powerhouse Lalu Yadav has the Congress so much on edge that sources say the partnership is unlikely to extend for the state elections, expected next year.
Senior Congress sources say that the party believes that Lalu, 66, is showing signs of working behind-the-scenes to help Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
In public, Lalu, who heads the Rashtriya Janata Dal or RJD, regularly attacks Mr Modi and the BJP for indulging in “the politics of communalism.”
But just weeks ago, Abu Kaiser, a man who left Lalu’s party and was close to him said his cellphone had been used for a conversation between Mr Modi and Lalu. “All of this coupled with the fact that the 12 seats he has given us, are those that we have no chance of winning, shows that he is up to something,” said a senior Congress leader to NDTV. In a clear signal of the unspooling, the two parties are also separately contesting the five assembly by-elections that will be held with the national poll.
Several months ago, Mr Modi disclosed that he was the first person to call Lalu after the Bihar politician was hurt in an accident last May – a revelation that had irked the Congress. The party also believes that Lalu was instrumental in driving Ram Vilas Paswan, another Bihar leader, to the BJP-led coalition in February.
The Congress faced scorching criticism for aligning with Lalu, who was jailed last year for alleged corruption when he was chief minister of Bihar. He has appealed against his conviction but has been disqualified as a Member of Parliament.
The strained relationship is already showing on the ground.
When Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi went to Aurangabad earlier this week, he didn’t share the stage with Mr Prasad.