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Yatra time for Nitish, again

india Updated: Oct 13, 2010 00:47 IST
Vijay Swaroop
Vijay Swaroop
Hindustan Times
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"Life is a yatra (journey)," philosophises Nitish Kumar as he heads towards his eight-seater Dell 412 helicopter for another leg of his Janadesh (People's Mandate) Yatra that will take him on a daylong trip to the crucial Katihar, Araria and Madhepura districts of northeastern Bihar.

There is a nip in the morning air but the chief minister, clad in immaculate white khadi kurta-pyjama and a waistcoat to match, is at his sprightly best.

The ride to Barari (Katihar), the first halt, will take 20 minutes; Kumar is informed. JD-U parliamentarian Ali Anwar and legislative council member Sanjay Singh are also with him.

Yatras have been rewarding for Kumar. His Nyaya (justice) Yatra before the last assembly polls catapulted him to office. He followed it up with Vikas (development), Pravas (familiarisation) and Vishwas (confidence) yatras as chief minister.

Now, he expects the Janadesh Yatra, his election campaign tour, to win him another term.

"There's no luck associated with yatra," insists Kumar, stressing he is not superstitious, unlike his arch rival, RJD's Lalu Prasad. "I'm not even a religious man. But I'm not an atheist, either. For me, work is worship."

The first destination reached, Kumar springs out. A quick wave to the waiting crowd, he launches into the myriad achievements of his regime to make out a case for a second term.

Then, it's Lalu-time. "He talks about putting on a ghungroo (anklets). Who wears a ghungroo?" he says, leaving his audience in splits.

Back in the chopper, it's time for a quick lunch. Lunch is frugal: three chapattis, mashed potatoes, his preferred vegetable nenua (ridge gourd) and pickles.

"This will be my lunch for the next 40 days," he laughs.

Kumar's decision to camp at Madhepura for the duration of his campaign for the first phase of polling on October 21 is part of a plan.

"By camping here, I am able to address eight-nine meetings per day. This would not have been possible had I been stationed in Patna," he explains.

Tired? "What option do I have?" Kumar proffers, ready to take the Madhepura return trip by road.