| Cowdung cakes left to dry on the walls of chief minister Nitish Kumar’s home in Kalyanbigha. Picture by Nalin Verma |
Despite their bitter rivalry, Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar have many things in common, especially when it comes to the accessibility in their native villages in Gopalganj and Nalanda districts.
The two rivals are “heroes” at their ancestral homes. “We cannot even think of voting against Laluji. He is like a chacha (uncle), bara bhai (elder brother), parivar ka aadmi (family man) to us,” said Mohan Yadav, a resident of Phulwaria, Lalu’s village.
Nitish enjoys similar bond with his Kalyanbigha village in Nalanda south of the river Ganga and almost 200km from Phulwaria. “Wo hamaray bhai ke tarah hain. Koi bahan bhai ke khilaf kaise soch sakti hai (Nitish is like my brother. How could a sister even think against a brother?)”, said Shakuntala (60) who was spotted near Nitish’s ancestral home when we visited Kalyanbigha last month.
Nitish and Lalu might be a product of the backward class politics but they, apparently, enjoy support across all castes and communities at their native places. Their ancestral homes and milieu in their villages are almost similar. While an old-styled khonp (granary) and cattle suggesting Lalu’s pastoral roots in front of his relatively newly built house greets visitors, Nitish has the wall of his old house pasted with cow dung cakes — still used as fuel in rural homes.