Lok Janshakti Party President Chirag Paswan on Sunday said he was not worried about facing any kind of criticism from the Bharatiya Janata Party or Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, but advised leaders to “use their words wisely”, ANI reported. Paswan downplayed the saffron party’s criticism of him and said it was doing that to “satisfy” Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

Paswan’s statements came a day after Union Home Minister Amit Shah, in an interview with News18 said that the LJP had left the National Democratic Alliance in Bihar on its own accord and asked Paswan not to “harbour any illusions”.

The LJP chief on Sunday also accused Kumar of trying to portray an imaginary wedge between the Lok Janshakti Party and the BJP. “He [Nitish Kumar] has wasted most of the time to show how LJP and BJP are divided,” Paswan said. “The chief minister is fielding all big BJP leaders to speak against me. I just want to say that they are free to speak against me, but they should use their words wisely. I would even say that if the prime minister wants to say something against me just to satisfy the chief minister, he can.”

Following LJP’s announcement to not contest the Assembly elections with Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), Bihar Deputy Chief Minister and the saffron party’s leader Sushil Modi had described Paswan’s party as “vote katuwa”, a term often used in election parlance for parties that do not necessarily win seats but manage to split voters. “In each and every public meeting, I am asking people not to waste their votes by polling for the LJP candidates,” the BJP leader had said in an interview last week.

The Lok Janshakti Party had walked out of the National Grand Alliance over “ideological differences” with Janata Dal (United) on October 4, but said it would remain a “strong partner” of the BJP and fight against Nitish Kumar. Chirag Paswan’s LJP is a member of the NDA at the Centre and his father Ram Vilas Paswan was a Union Minister till his death on October 8.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, Paswan said that the thrust of Kumar’s election campaign has been to create distance between Narendra Modi and him. He said the JD(U) president should be thankful to his ally, the BJP, for following the “coalition dharma” by giving him a “certificate” every day that it has no links with the LJP president. Paswan called Kumar an expert of the “divide and rule” policy.

“I do not want Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be in any dilemma because of me,” Paswan added. “He should follow his coalition dharma. He can say anything against me without any inhibition to satisfy Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.”

Paswan claimed that unlike the JD(U) chief, he does not feel the need to make a spectacle out of his relationship with the prime minister for political gains. “I do not need to exhibit my relations with the prime minister,” he said . “From the time when my father was in the hospital to his last rites, I can never forget what he [Modi] has done for me.”

Paswan added that Modi had inspired him to launch the “Bihar first Bihari first” vision document. “The prime minister is in my heart,” he told ANI. “Prime Minister Modi was standing with me when I was alone outside my father’s ICU. He gave such an honour to my father. Should I forget all that? He has loved like a father, this is my personal belief just like religion.”

After LJP’s exit from the National Democratic Alliance, the JD(U) and the BJP jointly announced they would contest on 122 and 121 seats each for the 243-member Bihar Assembly respectively. The JD(U) will accommodate the Jitan Ram Manjhi-led Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) and the BJP, Mukesh Sahni’s Vikassheel Insaan Party. This is the first time that JD(U) and BJP are contesting an almost equal number of seats.

Paswan has been making concerted efforts to target the JD(U) by putting up candidates against it, and choosing to not contest on seats where the BJP is in the fray.

While the BJP has disassociated the LJP from the NDA after Chirag’s rebellion, and reiterated that Kumar will become the chief minister after the mandate, experts say the saffron party could have a tacit understanding with Paswan, and would eventually use him against Kumar to have an upper-hand in the alliance.

Paswan has met Union Home Minister Amit Shah twice and the BJP president JP Nadda six times in course of the negotiation of seats, according to The Wire.

Tejashwi Yadav backs Chirag Paswan

Meanwhile, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav said what Nitish Kumar did with Chirag Paswan was “not good”, ANI reported. “Chirag Paswan needs his father at this time more than ever before but Ram Vilas Paswanji is not among us and we are sad about it,” Tejashwi Yadav said. “Nitish Kumar did injustice to Chirag Paswan.”

Yadav also taunted Kumar over his failure to get special status for Bihar despite being in alliance with the BJP, NDTV reported. “People are very angry,” he told the news agency. “It has been 15 years yet Bihar has not got special status. They have not been able to remove poverty, unemployment. People are extremely upset with this double engine government.” Yadav also said that Kumar lacks vision for Bihar.

“The rate of unemployment in Bihar is still 46.6%, the highest in the country,” the Rashtriya Janata Dal alleged. “Every second family has complaints here. On education, health, employment...people have huge anger and resentment against this double engine government.”

Responding to Kumar’s allegation that he lacks experience, Yadav said: “Why did he make me a deputy Chief Minister? I was involved in a lot of development projects.”