Bihar Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi stayed away from Nitish Kumar's 'Vishwash Yatra' Sunday, a day after the chief minister returned the Rs.5 crore aid given by the Gujarat government during floods in 2008.
Modi, who is believed to be close to Nitish Kumar, was scheduled to join the Vishwash Yatra (a march to seek people's confidence), in rural Patna Sunday, but was conspicuous by his absence.
"Sushil Kumar Modi decided to stay away from the Yatra Saturday night in view of growing resentment among BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) leaders," a BJP leader close to the deputy chief minister told IANS.
This is widely being seen as the first open sign of tension between ruling coalition partners BJP and Janata Dal-United (JD-U) in Bihar after Nitish Kumar returned the aid money to the Gujarat government led by Narendra Modi.
Nitish Kumar was miffed over advertisements featuring him and the Gujarat chief minister and referring to the aid provided by Gujarat during the 2008 Kosi floods. On June 12, he had also cancelled a dinner he was to host for BJP leaders attending the party's national executive meeting here after the full page advertisements appeared in vernacular dailies.
Nitish Kumar had said the Gujarat government's claim was uncivilised and against Indian culture. "Nobody claims of bestowing favours on those who face tragedy caused by natural calamities," he said.
The advertisement, published in the name of dozens of people of Bihar who are now settled in Gujarat, projected Modi as a close friend of Nitish Kumar and highlighted his state's generous help after the devastating floods in Bihar in 2008.
The Bihar chief minister began his 'Vishwas Yatra' in April, aimed at getting a first-hand response to development works initiated by his government in rural areas and to garner support ahead of assembly elections due in October.
Sushil Kumar Modi had accompanied him for the march in Rohtas four days ago.