Janata Dal (United) on Friday dismissed reports that Nitish Kumar was thinking of retirement, a day after the chief minister said that the ongoing Bihar elections would be his last, reported PTI.

“All is well that ends well. This is my last election,” Kumar had said on Thursday, while addressing an election rally in Purnea district. “Will you not vote for me now,” he had asked the people present at the rally.

But on Friday, Bashishtha Narayan Singh, chief of JD(U)’s Bihar unit, who has been associated with Kumar for more than 30 years, said the chief minister’s comments were wrongly interpreted. “We can’t help it if the opposition finds pleasure in drawing inferences without listening to the full statement or understanding the context,” he said. “But the fact remains he was addressing his final election rally, minutes before [the] campaign for the third and last phase of elections came to a close. He was referring to that.”

He rhetorically asked if Kumar was himself contesting the Assembly elections and pointed out that the chief minister is a member of the legislative council. “Does a political or social worker ever retire,” he asked.

State minister Sanjay Kumar Jha also dismissed the speculations, claiming that Kumar has been saying something on the lines of his Thursday’s statement at his last public meeting during campaigning since 2005. “Kumar will continue to serve the state and its people till the public wants,” he said, criticising opposition parties for reading too much into the statement.

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav, who is the chief ministerial face for the opposition’s Grand Alliance, reacted positively to Kumar’s statement, saying that they stand vindicated. “We had been saying all along that Nitish Kumar is tired and no longer able to govern Bihar,” Yadav said. “He would do well to retire”.

Lok Janshakti Party chief Chirag Paswan, who has repeatedly criticised Kumar, urged people not to waste their votes on any JD(U) candidate. “He [Nitish Kumar] refused to give an account for his last five years and has already declared that he has no intention of doing so next time,” Paswan said. “Don’t elect a person who will not come to you for blessings tomorrow. There will be no sahab or JD(U) in the next election.”

Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya claimed that the chief minister was playing an “emotional card” to strike a chord with angry voters, adding that it will not help him.

“Nitish Kumar will always be remembered as the man who made it possible for the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] and its toxic communal politics to take roots in Bihar,” Bhattacharya said. “His party supported the CAA [Citizenship Amendment Act] and later made pretensions of opposing the NRC [National Register of Citizens].”

Congress MLC Prem Chandra Mishra said that the chief minister’s remarks were “sentimental and politically motivated” and it came “too late” and would “achieve too little”.

“It appears Kumar is regretting his failure to snap ties with the BJP in time,” Mishra claimed. “He is now anguished to see that he has been trapped by his ally which is engineering his downfall by clandestinely backing the rebellion from LJP President Chirag Paswan.”

RJD’s national vice-president Shivanand Tiwary said the chief minister’s remarks should be taken at face value, adding that Kumar can do the opposite of what he says. “It was on the floor of the House that he had vowed never to go back with the BJP and look what he did thereafter,” he said in a statement.

Elections are underway in Bihar with the first two phases already over. The third phase will see 78 constituencies go to polls on November 7. The first phase on October 28 witnessed nearly 55% turnout across 71 seats, while the 94 seats in the second phase recorded over 53% turnout. The results for all 243 seats will be declared on November 10.