Has senior Bihar BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi “outlived” his utility or is the party just not interested in him anymore? The question is being hotly debated in the political circles of the state with the party leadership keeping him out of the important political tasks. While several junior leaders in the party were made election in-charges of various states, Modi just continues to work as chief minister Nitish Kumar’s deputy for over a decade.

In a fresh embarrassment to Modi, he has found himself out of the BJP’s list of 40 star campaigners for the Jharkhand assembly elections announced on Sunday. While several BJP leaders junior to him, such as Nand Kishore Yadav, Nityanand Rai, Mangal Pandey, Manoj Tiwari, and Ravi Kishan figure in the list of the party’s star campaigners, Modi has been conspicuous by his absence.

This was not the first time that Modi has been allegedly sidelined in the party. He was also not made election in-charge of any state till date despite being the senior-most leader in the Bihar BJP. On the other hand, two of his party colleagues, such as Mangal Pandey and Nand Kishore Yadav have been made elections in-charges. Pandey was first made the election in-charge of Himachal Pradesh assembly elections held in 2017 and then appointed the in-charge of recently-held Lok Sabha polls in Jharkhand. Likewise, Yadav has been appointed the co-in-charge of the assembly elections in Jharkhand.

One of the leaders close to Modi claimed he was kept out of the list of star campaigners since he would be busy with the winter session of the state assembly. However, his explanation doesn’t sound logical given the fact that both Pandey and Yadav too must have been out of the list of star campaigners on the same ground since they too are ministers in the ruling NDA government in the state. Moreover, several ministers like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, and Ravi Shankar Prasad too have been made the star campaigners despite the Parliament in session, amply explaining how junior Modi is slowly getting isolated in his organization.

“It’s not an issue. The star campaigners list is an expanded list of possible party leaders who will campaign. It is not the all the names included in the list are bound to campaign. Our minister Nand Kishor Yadav, Mangal Pandey, state BJYM president Nitin Nabin, and many organisational leaders are already camping in different constituencies. When needed, other leaders may also be invited to campaign for,” state BJP spokesperson Nikhil Anand told The Statesman on Monday.

Party insiders say Modi has apparently become a victim of being too close to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. It was Modi who had gone all out projecting Kumar as a “PM material” at the height of the debate while majority in the party wanted to see Narendra Modi on country’s top post. As recently as in September this year, Modi again strongly batted for Kumar describing the latter as “NDA captain” when many in the BJP wanted to see change of NDA face in Bihar.

“Nitish Kumar is the captain of NDA in Bihar and will remain its captain in next assembly elections in 2020 also. When captain is hitting fours and sixes and defeating rivals by innings where is the question of change?” Modi had tweeted. Modi’s reactions had come after a senior BJP leader suggested Kumar to shift to national politics and hand over his throne to a BJP leader.