The offensive launched by two senior leaders - Shivanand Tiwary and Narendra Singh - against Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and his style of functioning at the Janata Dal (U) chintan shivir (strategy meeting) on Tuesday was not unexpected.
Tension had been building up for long, with some being upset at the split with the BJP and others over trends within the party.
And the rebels, party sources said, have the patronage of JD(U) president Sharad Yadav, who is instrumental in the formation of a Third Front at the national level. Yadav, who has been opposed to the Congress all through, is opposed to Kumar's growing proximity to the Congress.
In this background it is significant that Kumar is attending the Left-sponsored meet in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Tiwary, who has been Kumar's close aide since the JP (Jayaprakash Narayan) movement days, is aggrieved at the manner in which he was sidelined within the JD(U) and removed as the national spokesman of the party as well as from the standing committee of Parliament.
Tiwary, however, has the image of being a political rolling stone. He was once opposed to Lalu Prasad and even petitioned against the RJD chief in the fodder scam. Later he joined the RJD but subsequently moved to the JD(U) as Kumar's clout grew in Bihar.
Similarly, agriculture minister Narendra Singh, who was also a member of the steering committee constituted by JP along with Tiwary and Kumar, nourishes chief ministerial ambitions and is seen as alternative leader by scores of aggrieved JD(U) legislators.
He too served as minister in the RJD government and also joined the Lok Janshakti Party, led by Ram Vilas Paswan. He deserted Paswan after the Bihar assembly polls in February 2005.
Singh is annoyed ever since the party was defeated at the Maharajganj Lok Sabha bypoll, in which RJD nominee and strongman Prabhunath Singh, who was once in the JD(U), won by a substantial margin. "Singh, being the only prominent Rajput face in the party and a JP movement veteran, is a rallying point for the rebels. That is why he raised the issue of humiliation of party leaders and grassroots workers," an MLA said.
Many JD(U) leaders see two reasons behind the rebellion within the party. First, it is alleged that Kumar has been disrespectful to his party colleagues and, second, his "autocratic style of functioning and over-dependence on the bureaucracy" are also reasons for the drift.
Rebellion within the JD(U) is not new. At least four JD(U) MPs - Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lallan Singh, Mangani Lal Mandal, Sushil Kumar Singh and Upendra Prasad Kushwaha - had revolted against Kumar. They were upset with him for appointing people without a political background to important party positions.
"Nitish calls Narendra Modi a dictator but he is himself dictatorial in nature," said Mangani Lal Mandal, who recently met Lalu Prasad in Ranchi's Birsa Munda jail. Mandal is set to contest Lok Sabha polls as an RJD nominee from Jhanjharpur in North Bihar.
The JD(U) could withstand the shock of initial rebellion as it had the support of the BJP with 91 MLAs. However, Kumar's troubles mounted soon after he severed ties with the BJP.