Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav on Tuesday accused Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and the assembly speaker of conspiring to create a split in his party after reports about 13 of his 22 MLAs switching sides to the ruling Janata Dal (United) in the state came out on Monday.
The drama of the defecting MLAs unfolded as 13 of the RJD's 22 members announced that they were leaving the party. Later, senior RJD leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui paraded six of the 13 MLAs in front of the media to show they were still with the party.
The six MLAs claimed their signatures were forged in the letter that the rebel legislators sent to the Bihar assembly speaker, demanding they be recognised as a separate group. Later in the night, three more MLAs returned to the RJD's fold.
"Nitish hatched a conspiracy with the speaker to break my party. But, it went wrong and the whole country has seen the conspiracy," Prasad told reporters at Patna airport.
"Nitish Kumar is eyeing RJD legislators and offering them lucrative posts to split the party," he said.
He also accused Bihar assembly speaker Uday Narain Choudhary of being involved in the conspiracy to split the RJD.
Yadav vowed to expose "other technical details" about the revolt against him by the party legislators.
A meeting of RJD legislature party has been called at the residence of former chief minister Rabri Devi in which Prasad will be present along with other top leaders.
While he flew to Patna, Kumar left for Delhi just a few minutes after the arrival of the RJD leader but they did not see each other at the airport.
The MLAs, who split from the RJD, had pledged support to the JD(U) government.
In a letter to assembly speaker Chaudhary bearing their signatures, the 13 RJD MLAs - five of whom are Muslims - had informed him that they were quitting the party.
"In accordance with the request of the 13 MLAs as per an interim arrangement they have been given permission to sit as a separate group," an assembly notification had said.
The RJD MLAs whose signatures were appended on the letter were Samrat Chaudhary, Raghvendra Pratap Singh, Durga Prasad Singh, Lalit Yadav, Anirudh Kumar, Jeetendra Rai, Akhtar-ul-Islam Sahin, Akhtar-ul-Iman, Abdul Gafoor, Faiyazz, Javed Iqbal Ansari, Ram Lakhan Ram Raman and Chandrasekhar.
The six MLAs, who denied they have left the party, said that they did not consciously sign any letter about walking out of the RJD and forming a separate group.
Gafoor claimed that the signature of MLAs were taken for different purposes like raising a matter for call attention motion during the assembly session.
"I did not sign any letter consciously to leave RJD ... a fraud has been committed on me," Gafoor said.
Besides Gafoor, the other MLAs who came to the party office to deny a split were Lalit Yadav, Faiyyaz Ahmad, Durga Prasad Singh, Chandrasekhar and Akhtar-ul Islam Sahin.
Prasad also denied that he gave his signature for the purpose of leaving the party.
The RJD has 22 members in the 243-member house, while the JDU has 118 legislators.
The RJD chief is keen on a pre-poll alliance with the Congress ahead of the Lok Sabha polls but after Monday's developments it might be forced to re-consider its alliance plan, observers said.
Congress might prefer Kumar's JD(U) as an alliance partner over Yadav, who has been convicted in a fodder scam case and can't contest the Lok Sabha elections, they added.
(With PTI and IANS inputs)