Like the unforeseen rains in Patna these days, a question keeps surfacing every now and then amidst the ongoing campaign for the August 21 by-polls to 10 assembly seats: who will be Bihar's next chief minister?
Will it be a toss-up between Sushil Modi and Nand Kishore Yadav for the BJP? Has the leadership issue been settled in favor of RJD's Lalu Prasad, with JD (U)'s Nitish Kumar conceding to play second fiddle? Will some dark horse emerge?
While such questions are invariably being asked at street corner meetings and in the corridors of power, political leaders have started making smart and calculated moves. The state elections are scheduled in 2015.
Within days of BJP leader Nand Kishore Yadav's assertion that the party's parliamentary board would take a call on the chief ministerial issue, supporters of former deputy chief minister Sushil Modi rooted for his candidature at a meeting of the state executive, sources said.
Lobbying has intensified for the top job, as supporters of one party faction or another are planning visits to New Delhi to lobby with central party leaders and union ministers, with names of Shahnawaz Hussain, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Rajiv Pratap Rudy being talked about as possible candidates. Expectations are that the party high command will take a call on the basis of the outcome of the by-elections.
The JD (U) chief seems to have stepped back on his claims for the moment but, given his unusual moves in the recent past, one can hardly tell what surprises he will spring, a Bihar watcher said.
Because of his conviction in the fodder scam case, the RJD chief is unable to project himself as a chief ministerial candidate, but is expected to root for his wife and former chief Minister Rabri Devi.
Current chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi seems to have recently thrown his hat in the ring, saying that there was nothing wrong in Kumar's decision to resign, as he would not otherwise get an opportunity to assume the top post. Lately, he also embarrassed Kumar by saying that his predecessor was unable to curb corruption.
"Manjhi is more intelligent and ambitious than what people think… a man to watch," an observer said.