Their voices dripping with sarcasm, the two leading antagonists of the Bihar assembly polls have bestowed pompous sobriquets on each other.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, refers to Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad as ‘Shri Kaya Palat’ (Mr Turnaround) in his campaign speeches.
It is a dig at Prasad’s stint as Union railway minister, when he was initially believed to have transformed the railways, but later had doubts cast on his achievement by his successor, Mamata Banerjee.
Prasad reciprocates in kind by calling Kumar ‘Shri Sushan’ (Mr Good Governance), relating to the widespread impression that Kumar has greatly improved the overall situation, which he then proceeds to comprehensively debunk.
It started with Kumar parodying lines from an old Hindi song: “Kaya Palat ki jai ho, Bihar mein bhay ho (Bihar’s biggest fear? That Mr Turnaround may win this election),” he recited. Prasad retorted: “It is not the people of Bihar who are afraid of my winning, it is only Mr Good Governance.”
Prasad adds in Hindi verse: “Koi aisa saga nahin, jise Nitish ne thaga nahin (There isn’t a single person whom Nitish has not cheated).”
It is a reference to the fact that a number of Kumar’s formerly close aides have broken away from him lately.
The Nitish Kumar government’s scheme of distributing bicycles free to school-going children has been a great success. Prasad, in his speeches, promises to do one better: distribute motorcycles for free.
“They’ll have to sell the bikes to raise the money for fuel,” says Kumar. “They can get the money from their fathers,” retorts Prasad.
At election meetings, Kumar has been reading out stanzas from Munadi – the Dharmvir Bharti poem made famous at the height of the Jayaprak-ash Narain movement in Bihar. The recitation was aimed at invoking memories of the “fifteen years of misrule” of the Lalu Prasad-Rabri Devi combine.