Patna, Jan. 23: For the past five days, a 56-year-old man wrapped in shawl comes out of his cottage every morning with folded hands and tells villagers: I have come to you not to ask for votes. I am just here to listen to your grievances.
He is none other than chief minister Nitish Kumar, who is hardly accessible to people living in remote Bihar. But the method that Nitish adopted to carry on with his Vikas Yatra leaves no one in doubt about his politics to win over the electorate and also beat his main rival Lalu Prasad in the latters own game in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls.
Nitish began his Vikas Yatra by inaugurating a bridge at Gopaganj Lalu Prasads home district on January 19.
Then he proceeded to a remote village Patilar in adjoining West Champaran district where he had a night stay and presented himself in the Janata ke Durbar mein Mukhyamantri (CM in peoples court) programme amid thousands of people vying to get close to him.
Here too, Nitish spoke about how he had decided to hold his first janata durbar in the area from where Mahatma Gandhi launched his struggle to liberate India from the British rule.
Unlike his known trait of staying reserved and work in a businesslike fashion, Nitish looks more like Lalu Prasad during his Vikas Yatra.
Behaving in a manner typical to the RJD chiefs fashion, Nitish has been breaking the security cordon to get close to people and converse directly with them wherever he has been going.
You are my masters. I have come here to listen to you, he tells them the way Lalu talks directly to people.
In fact, Lalu Prasad, who initially described Vikas Yatra a nautanki (drama), later clarified: Nitish is copying my style. It will not work. He is fooling the masses. He should live in the poor peoples huts and sleep with them rather than living in the cosy cottages made from the state funds.
LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan too criticised Nitish, saying: The chief minister is flaunting his five-star styles in poor Bihar villages. His yatra is tantamount to taunting the underprivileged section of the society.
But Nitish has made solid inroads in Lalu Prasads vote bank by inviting various welfare scheme for Muslims, extremely backward sections and Mahadalits (neglected among the Dalits).
These sections have voted for the NDA candidates in almost all the bypolls that have taken place in Bihar with Nitish in the drivers seat.
Incidentally, the NDA has won all the by-elections in the state after Nitish taking over the reigns of the state in December 2005.