Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri's open endorsement of Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui has rattled Senator Susan Kihika, who is seeking to unseat the county boss.
In what political pundits now say could escalate their rivalry, Senator Kihika on Wednesday vowed to ensure the MP is defeated in the August 9 General Election.
"Ati yule jamaa wa Bahati amesema nini leo? Kama maneno iko hivyo na mimi ninasema watu wangu wa Bahati roundi hii tucheze kama sisi, kwani iko nini. Waende home na Governor Kinyanjui” (I hear he has endorsed my rival. If that is the case, I urge my people of Bahati to ensure the two go home," Ms Kihika wrote on her Facebook page.
On Wednesday, during the Madaraka Day celebrations at Kiamaina in Bahati constituency, Mr Ngunjiri, a key ally of Deputy President William Ruto, openly drummed up support for Mr Kinyanjui, urging his constituents to vote for him in the August 9 polls.
"I want to urge residents of Bahati to be keen while voting in the forthcoming General Election. In Nakuru County, jibu ni Lee and in Bahati, jibu ni Ngunjiri," he said amid applause from the crowd.
The political development has escalated differences between the two allies of DP Ruto.
They have in the past few months been avoiding each other even during local political rallies attended by Dr Ruto in Nakuru.
Mr Ngunjiri, for instance, has been absent from two political events held by the Kenya Kwanza outfit in Nakuru in the past two weeks, raising eyebrows.
Last week, Mr Ngunjiri was conspicuously missing from Kenya Kwanza’s Nakuru County Economic Bloc Forum held at the Rift Valley Sports Club.
He was also glaringly absent during last weekend's Kenya Kwanza rallies in Nakuru.
Some Nakuru leaders and voters questioned his absence, but political pundits linked it to the supremacy battles with Senator Kihika.
However, in an interview with the Nation, Mr Ngunjiri had claimed that he was campaigning for Dr Ruto at the national level.
“I have been campaigning for [DP Ruto] outside Nakuru. Those worried about my absence should know that I am a national leader,” said Mr Ngunjiri.
“I am campaigning for Dr Ruto on the national platform, because back at home I know I will comfortably win my seat as MP for Bahati due to my good development record.
“In the past weeks since Dr Ruto named Mr Rigathi Gachagua as his running mate, I have been deployed by my party leader to campaign elsewhere. That is why I have been absent from Nakuru.”
Although Mr Ngunjiri denied reports that he skipped the events because of the presence of Senator Kihika, it is understood their political differences have heightened ahead of the August 9 polls.
A United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party insider also revealed that the two have been avoiding attending rallies together because of their bad blood.
“It is in the public domain that Senator Kihika and Mr Ngunjiri do not see eye to eye. They have been engaged in protracted wrangles over control of the party activities in the region. Each does not attend a rally organised by the other,” said the source, who sought anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Mr Ngunjiri and Senator Kihika have been embroiled in supremacy wars for a long time over control of UDA.
The divisions have led to the creation of two factions, one led by Mr Ngunjiri and the other by Senator Kihika.
A few months ago, the differences prompted Dr Ruto to summon Nakuru UDA members in an attempt to resolve the differences and avoid cracks in the party.
But those efforts seem to have failed.
In a past interview, Mr Ngunjiri said: “As far as I am concerned, there are no divisions in UDA party in Nakuru. We only had a few teething problems that were resolved. All members should be united because peace should be our number one priority.”
“UDA is after creating peace and stability in the region, as the country heads to the August 9 General Election.”
Mr Ngunjiri has been avoiding rallies attended or organised by Senator Kihika, including the launch of UDA offices in Nakuru city earlier this year.
They have positioned themselves to influence UDA politics in Nakuru and the South Rift region, with each seeking to win DP Ruto’s confidence.
Senator Kihika is said to be keen on controlling UDA in the region.
During the party’s nominations, some Nakuru leaders accused her of meddling in the voting.
Amid the political machinations, Senator Kihika seems to have lost the support of some of the MPs who initially supported her bid.
Nearly all the MPs in the region had supported her bid to unseat Governor Kinyanjui.
But now Mr Ngunjiri and Naivasha MP Jayne Kihara, who have had differences openly with Ms Kihika, have withdrawn their support for her bid.
Mr Ngunjiri had fashioned himself as the greatest supporter of Ms Kihika as she guns for the governor’s seat in 2022, but they have parted ways.
The outspoken senator is also said to be at loggerheads with other leaders from the region, something political pundits say might interfere with her bid to dislodge Governor Kinyanjui.
Mr Ngunjiri's endorsement of Mr Kinyanjui seems to have compounded the situation for Senator Kihika.