Patna, June 23 : A vocal war is raging in Bihar between the two parties which rule the state -- the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar may be quiet after suddenly taking on his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi, but his known supporters are at their aggressive best vis-a-vis the BJP.
BJP state leaders and ministers are not far behind, escalating a confrontation that has the potential to have repercussions on national politics.
After 16 years of marriage, the BJP and JD-U are pulling apart like never before.
Rural Works Minister Bhim Singh, a senior JD-U leader, has called the BJP "untouchable".
"The BJP was nowhere (on the national scene) before the JD-U joined the NDA in 1996," said Bhim Singh, who is considered a confidant of Nitish Kumar.
"It was JD-U that gave legitimacy to the BJP in national politics," he added. "Until then, it only had the Shiv Sena as an ally. The BJP was seen as an untouchable until then."
Urban Development Minister Prem Kumar, a senior BJP leader, charged the JD-U with opportunism.
"The BJP had never been untouchable to any non-Congress party," he said. "They have enjoyed the fruits of power with the support of our party. Even BJP critics like Lalu Prasad came to power with BJP support."
Bihar BJP president C.P. Thakur said that JD-U leaders who were branding his party untouchable were themselves untouchable.
It all began this week when Nitish Kumar told a newspaper that the National Democratic Alliance's (NDA) prime ministerial candidate should be secular and widely acceptable.
The remark created a storm, with BJP leaders and even Nitish supporters admitting that the chief minister's comments were clearly directed at Modi -- a man whose prime ministerial ambitions are known.
Since then, leaders of the two parties have been at each other's throats, in Bihar and elsewhere too.
JD-U leader and Water Resources Minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary pointed out that Nitish Kumar never took Modi's name but merely underlined the need for a secular prime minister.
"After that BJP leaders created a hue and cry, exposing Modi as communal," he said.
The most vocal BJP man in Bihar today is Animal Husbandry Minister Giriraj Singh, a hardcore Modi supporter who has dared Nitish Kumar to sack him from the cabinet.
He has also started calling Nitish Kumar "pseudo secular" -- which in the BJP dictionary stands for those who put on the hat of secularism to suit their convenience.
The BJP-JD-U differences have also been heightened after the latter broke ranks and announced its support to United Progressive Alliance (UPA) presidential candidate and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
The BJP is backing former Lok Sabha speaker Purno Sangma, who has quit the Nationalist Congress Party and the UPA to contest the election.
BJP legislator Rameshwar Chourasia has dubbed JD-U leader Shivanand Tiwari a "Hanuman of Lalu Prasad".
The war of words has given rise to speculation that the JD-U might walk out of the NDA ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election, a development that is bound to lead to fresh political alignments in the state.