They have a tough electoral contest ahead, but Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his rivals Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan are also jostling for supremacy in Bihar's rakhi markets. A day ahead of the festival, rakhis named after the three were doing brisk business on Monday with reports that Nitish Kumar had a slight edge.
"Demand of rakhis with pictures of Nitish, Lalu and Paswan are high among girls, youth and children," Santosh Kumar, a shopkeeper here, said a day ahead of Raksha Bandhan, where sisters tie decorative threads on their brother's wrist as a symbol of sibling love.
While the chief minister belongs to the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), Lalu Prasad heads the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Paswan is chief of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).
Rakumar Chandrawanshi, a wholesaler of rakhis, told IANS that rakhis with Nitish Kumar's pictures, locally known as Nitish rakhis, are selling like hot cakes.
"It is the first preference for people...more popular than those named after Lalu and Paswan. All three are fighting a close battle in the rakhis market," he said.
Mantu Singh, another shopkeeper, said these special rakhis were particularly popular among children and the youth.
With hardly two months to go for the Bihar assembly polls, there are several makeshift stalls selling rakhis named after the state' leading politicians and shopkeepers say many come just to have a look at these special items.
"The rakhis are in huge demand. Even those who do not purchase these rakhis want to have a look at the Nitish, Lalu and Paswan rakhis," said Sultan Ahmad, another rakhi seller.
Aneesh Ankur, a theatre activist, said rakhi manufacturers have named rakhis after the trio of Bihar politics to cash in on their popularity. "Patna's rakhi market is flooded with rakhis bearing names of these politicians and displaying their photographs," he said.
Interestingly, there is no rakhi named after Nitish Kumar's alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders.
"Rakhis have not been named after Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi," a shopkeeper said.
This is not the first time the Lalu brand has been used to spin money. Lalu rakhis hit markets four years ago and got a good response. Apart from rakhis, Bihar's rural markets have seen Lalu dolls, Lalu chocolates, Lalu fodder and Lalu cosmetics as well.
Firecrackers named after Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar were sold ahead of Diwali a few years ago.