Prashant Kishor, acclaimed as election strategy savant, has not defaulted on his obligations as a senior member of the Bihar government, said Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today. The opposition BJP has alleged that Mr Kishor has abandoned his home state for Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, where he has been enlisted by the Congress for state elections.

Mr Kishor, 37, helped close the loop for Mr Kumar’s re-election for a third term as Chief Minister in six month; in return he was named special adviser to Mr Kumar for Bihar Vikas Mission and given the status of a cabinet minister.

“I know a lot of people have no work except kite-flying but we know he’s pre occupied with his political engagement in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab and this has been mutually decided – that he will focus on this twin task for the next eight months,” said the Chief Minister, emphasising that Mr Kishor is crucial not just in designing new development schemes for Bihar, but “an integral part of me”.

Sushil Kumar Modi, the head of the BJP in Bihar, has asked the government to explain why Mr Kishor has been allowed such an extended leave of absence. Sources close to the Chief Minister say that critics of Mr Kishor would do well to remember that he does not get a salary or perquisites from the Bihar government. His home and office are part of the Chief Minister’s residential complex in Patna.

Mr Kishor acquired heavy-hitter status on the political circuit in 2014 with the BJP according him top billing for its dramatic sweep. However, he then changed sides by teaming with Mr Kumar against the BJP in the Bihar state election. With the Congress as his latest client, critics – and even supporters – say his political chops will be tested as never before.

The party, under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, has been forced into a bit player in several states. In Punjab, talk of widening differences with Captain Amarinder Singh, the Congress’ presumptive Chief Minister, has been reported so regularly that the Captain, in a show of all-is-well, has been forced to highlight that Mr Kishor stays with him when in town.

In Uttar Pradesh, Mr Kishor has been unable to persuade the Congress to declare a Chief Ministerial candidate, or to firm up a role agreeable to Mr Gandhi’s younger sister, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who is being urged to campaign beyond the Gandhi constituencies of Amethi and Rae Barelli.