The BJP on Monday seemed to be preparing for life without the Janata Dal (United) as the war of words between the two NDA partners over Narendra Modi, who many see as the saffron party's possible PM candidate, intensified.
The BJP took on Bihar chief minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar, who on Sunday had launched a scathing attack on his Gujarat counterpart by questioning his "secular credentials".
"In 2002, Nitish Kumar was the railway minister when the Sabarmati Express coach was burnt at Godhra. If he says anything on this now, we reject it," BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi, considered a Modi loyalist, said at a press conference in the Capital.
Burning of the coach triggered Gujarat's worst communal riots that left around 1,000 people dead, most of them Muslims. Modi's critics accuse him of not doing enough to contain the violence.
Kumar was no one to give a certificate on secularism to the Gujarat CM, said Lekhi.
Asked if she was questioning Kumar's moral right to speak on the riots, Lekhi said, "I'm just saying he is an old ally. He was there in 2002 and has been in NDA all the way till now."
Kumar is against Modi being named the PM candidate as he fears losing Muslim support in Bihar, where his party is the senior partner of the BJP in the ruling coalition.
A group of BJP leaders from the state met party chief Rajnath Singh. They objected to Kumar "running down" Modi and sought an end to the alliance with the JD (U).
Even pro-alliance Bihar state chief Mangal Pandey went with the mood. At a time, when the NDA should be discussing the UPA scams and rising prices, the JD(U) had chosen to discuss BJP CMs , he said.
"Instead of praising what he (Modi) has achieved, people (read Nitish Kumar) have been praising the corrupt UPA…," he said
Kumar refused comment, saying he had made his stand clear in Delhi. His party colleagues said the JD (U) believed in secular ideology and wanted to take all communities along.
"If any party has a problem with this, we cannot help it," state party spokesman Neeraj Kumar said.
While central BJP leaders said nothing on record, there were murmurs that matters had come to a head.
"Sometimes, some things become inevitable, after which we don't assess losses or gains…," said a senior leader, hinting a split was inevitable.
Senior BJP leaders LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj, however, were believed to be against the move, as they would want a counter to Modi, sources said.
Kumar has praised Advani, who flagged off his anti-corruption yatra two years ago, in the past.
Unease over Modi within his party was hard to miss. Yashwant Sinha, who earlier backed him, on Monday said Advani could lead the party in the Lok Sabha polls.
Lekhi, however, said he was not a member of the parliamentary board, which would take the final call.
Advani was described as the "tallest BJP leader" by colleague and Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan.