Born: June 11, 1948
The origins: Went to a school at Phulwaria village (Gopalganj) and was later taken to Patna by his brother, a peon in Bihar Veterinary College. Got a law degree and an MA (political science), turned down a job as a clerk in Bihar Veterinary College because of his political ambitions.
Born: March 1, 1951
The origins: Son of freedom fighter Kaviraj Ram Lakhan Singh Vaidya of Kalyan Bigha village of Nalanda, Went to a Bakhtiyarpur school, then got a BE from Bihar College of Engineering (now NIT Patna). Worked briefly with Bihar State Electricity Board before joining politics in the late 1970s.
They met at Patna University, where Lalu was students union general secretary in 1970, and president in 1973 and 1974. Participating in P P Narayan’s Total Revolution (along with Sushil Modi), Nitish was struck by Lalu’s crowdpulling abilities and speeches that would become his trademark.
At age 29 in 1977, Lalu became Janta Party MP from Chhapra (now Saran). Lost in 1980 but elected to assembly the same year. Backed by Nitish and others, became key second-rung socialist leader after Karpoori Thakur. After Thakur’s death, Lalu became leader of the opposition in 1989, then chief minister in 1990 and indisputably Bihar’s tallest leader by 1993. This was also when Nitish, until he went to Delhi, came to be known as Lalu’s “Chanakya”.
Nitish lost his first assembly election in 1980 from Harnaut (Nalanda). Won in 1985 as an independent, rallied behind Lalu in projecting him as leader after Karpoori Thakur’s death. President of Yuva Lok Dal in 1987, then secretary general of newly formed Janata Dal in 1989. Also won Lok Sabha election that year and moved to Centre as MoS (agriculture) in V P Singh government. Won again in 1991, made deputy leader of Janata Dal in Parliament.
In 1994, Nitish parted ways with “bade bhai” and joined George Fernandes’s Samata Party, which performed poorly in the 1995 assembly elections. In 1997, Lalu split from Janata Dal to form Rashtriya Janata Dal that won the 2000 elections.
Bihar to Delhi
Lalu lost the CM’s chair in 1997 because of his alleged involvement in the fodder scam, but made his wife Rabri Devi CM and remained in power by proxy. His party won 24 Lok Sabha seats in 2004 and Lalu became railway minister, succeeding Nitish.
Delhi to Bihar
Nitish joined hands with BJP in 1996. CM for seven days in 1998, then union minister for surface transport in 1998-99, railway minister in 2001-2004. Contested 2004 elections from Barh and Nalanda, losing the former. Returned to Bihar in 2005, winning elections with BJP and becoming CM.
Comes after setbacks suffered by both. Lalu was convicted in 2013, between heavy defeats in 2009 and 2014 (four seats). Nitish split with BJP in 2013 and managed only two seats in the Lok Sabha. The two having tallied more votes between them than the BJP did, the testing ground for their alliance will be upcoming bypolls to 10 assembly seats, ahead of polls next year.