A shiny metalled road takes one from the small town of Harnaut to Kalyanbigha village in Nalanda. There are signs of activity near the ancestral house of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. It is the death anniversary of his wife Manju Sinha.
A small family park has busts of Manju and the CM’s parents — Ram Lakhan Singh and Parmeshwari Devi. Nitish, who would visit Kalyanbigha on the death anniversaries of his wife and parents, has not been able to reach the village this time because of the election campaign. Villagers are talking about the arrival of his son Nishant.
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At the CM’s house, caretaker Sitaram sits on a cot and speaks to guests, most of them political workers and villagers. The old brick and thatched house has given way to a pucca house. The rear portion is converted into a pucca cowshed that can accommodate 20 cows.
Nishant reaches with his uncle Satish Kumar. Both first go to the village temple, then their house, then go to pay homage to Manju. On his return, Nishant speaks to villagers and asks about their well-being.
After they leave, the villagers discuss Nitish’s connection to his roots and work done for the village. Besides the metalled roads, made years ago, the village has a school, an ITI centre, a hospital and power sub-station.
“Though it is natural for us to support JD(U)’s Nalanda candidate and sitting MP Kaushlendra Kumar, it will be a bit tough for him this time. Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) candidate Ashok Chandravanshi is banking on the support of fellow castes, EBC Kahar, besides Yadav, Muslim and Dalit votes,” says Surendra Ram, a share cropper.
Nalanda was a Nitish bastion, he says. “But we saw a close fight in 2014 when Kaushlendra won by only 10,000 votes. Kaushlendra has an edge now, but signs of aggressive voting by Grand Alliance supporters could make it tough.”
OBC Kurmi-dominated (about 25 per cent of electorate) Nalanda Lok Sabha seat has about 20 per cent OBC Yadavs, 8 per cent Muslims, 10 per cent OBC Kushwahas, 9 per cent upper castes besides 25 per cent EBCs. The HAM (S) candidate is looking at a fair chunk of EBC and SC votes besides Muslim and Yadav votes.
Caretaker Sitaram also keeps track of politics. A JD(U) supporter who distributed pamphlets of the party candidate told him how some neighbouring villages had an “adverse report”. But Sitaram says, “My saheb (Nitish) has done a lot for Bihar. He got electricity in his ancestral house only recently, after all households in Bihar got it. Kaushlendra will win.”
Jitendra Paswan, another villager, says: “We are so proud to share our village with Nitish. But we need government houses in place of thatched ones.”