Patna : What is going on in Bihar? Are the warring Janata Dal (U) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) any closer to resolving their differences after the intervention of Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the Congress, their third partner in the ruling coalition?
The tussle between the two allies is being watched closely. Not only will it have a bearing on the politics of India's third-most populous state but could also decide the fate of the opposition parties' efforts to come together to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha election.
1) Tejashwi in the middle
Deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav, who is the younger son of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, is named in an alleged case of land-for-hotels scandal. The Central Bureau of Investigation last week raided the residence of Lalu, also named in the case, and other properties in the five cities.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) has put the RJD and Tejashwi on notice. They want him to come clean on the source of funds used for acquiring the alleged illegal properties or quit.
2) Lalu won't play ball
The RJD chief doesn't seem to be in a mood to oblige. He snapped at mediapersons when asked if his son would quit. "Tejashwi was elected by the people, not by those asking for his resignation," he said in Ranchi in neighbouring Jharkhand, where he appeared in a fodder scam case.
The two sides seemed to have hardened stand despite Congress chief Sonia Gandhi's efforts to broker truce between the Grand Alliance partners.
Tejashwi, too, has ruled out resignation, saying charges against him were political vendetta as he was barely 13 when the alleged case happened. The 26-year-old accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah of conspiring to implicate him to break the ruling alliance in the state.
3) Pressure on Nitish
The land-for-hotels case is the latest in a string of corruption allegations against Lalu and his clan. Kumar is under intense pressure to sack his deputy to protect the image of a clean government.
"Nitish Kumar's assets are known to the world but on the other hand, what have you?" JD (U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar asked of Lalu.
The RJD chief, his wife and former chief minister Rabri Devi, their elder son Tej Pratap, also a senior minister in Bihar, and their daughters, including Misa Bharati, are accused of acquiring illegal assets.
Lalu in fact is barred from contesting an election and had to step down as an MP after he was found guilty in a multi-crore fodder scam case by the Supreme Court.
Before the JD(U)-RJD rift took the centre stage, Kumar was not too happy with the Congress either. He broke ranks with the opposition to back the BJP-led NDA's candidate in the July 17 presidential election. The Congress first requested him to reconsider his support to Ram Nath Kovind, when he refused, it accused him of changing stance.
The Bihar chief minister also sent a representative for the July 1 launch of the goods and services tax (GST), an event the Congress boycotted.
But since then, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has spoken to Kumar, who has decided to go with the opposition which has chosen Gopalkrishna Gandhi, a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, to be the vice presidential candidate.
5) Playing footsie
While Kumar's recent moves and utterances have the RJD and the Congress worried, the BJP is imagining a reunion.
Kumar walked out of the NDA when the BJP in 2013 named Narendra Modi as the PM candidate, ending a long partnership. It is the BJP that is mounting pressure on Kumar to act against Tejashwi and has questioned his anti-corruption stand every time Lalu or one of his clan face accusations of financial impropriety. The BJP has even offered outside support to him, if he cuts ties with the RJD.
Kumar has said the Congress is not serious enough to provide an alternative narrative to the BJP while the Congress continues to be ambiguous on a greater role for him in the 2019 parliamentary election.
For now, the BJP is watching from the sidelines as goings-on in Bihar tests the opposition's resolve to unify against it.