Puja and polls: Nitish’s family prays, Lalu helps Rabri with rituals

By Imran Khan, IANS,

Patna : They need all the help they can get and Durga Puja has come just in time! Bihar politicians and their families are busy invoking the goddess at their homes. This time they have a special prayer – victory in the coming assembly polls.

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Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has time and again said he is neither a religious person nor an atheist but he is expected to join his brother and other family members for Durga Puja celebrations.

His official residence wears a festive look as his elder brother Satish Kumar’s family is offering prayers to Goddess Durga, specially to wish him good luck. The chief minister’s aged mother Parmeshwari Devi and his sister-in-law are taking care of the rituals.

“Satish Kumar has done ‘kalash sthapna’ to mark the beginning of Durga Puja to seek divine blessings for Nitish Kumar, who is busy campaigning,” said a staff member at the chief minister’s 1, Anne Marg residence.

An earthen pot, or ‘kalash’, filled with water is kept at the prayer site to mark the beginning of the puja. Durga Puja, which began Wednesday, is one of the biggest festivals of eastern India and people in Bihar observe fast and prepare sweet dishes.

“Nitish Kumar is out of Patna, he has been camping in Madhepura district. But he will join family members Thursday for Durga Puja,” a ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader close to the chief minister said.

He has been campaigning for the first phase of the polls in 47 of 243 assembly seats in the Kosi and Seemanchal belt. The six-phase polls begin Oct 21 and go on till Nov 20.

Nitish Kumar’s son Nishant is taking active part in Durga Puja rituals. His wife Manju Sinha died in 2007. “Kumar may not be fasting or doing much directly but he is keen to offer prayers,” a JD-U leader told IANS.

A festive mood also prevails in Rabri Devi and Lalu Prasad’s residence, a few metres away from the chief minister’s home. The couple, both former chief ministers, have been taking part in Durga Puja every year.

“Rabri has done ‘kalash sthapna’,” an RJD leader said. The leader added that despite the increasing pressure of election work, Lalu Prasad was helping Rabri Devi perform Durga Puja.

“The rituals are not easy as age-old traditions have to be followed. Lalu Prasad’s presence gives strength to Rabri Devi,” the RJD leader said. Rabri Devi is contesting from two seats – Raghopur and Sonepur.

“Rabri Devi has been performing the rituals at her home instead of going to a temple,” a staff member at her residence said.

LJP’s Ram Vilas Paswan is busy campaigning but his wife Rina has done ‘kalash sthapna’ at her residence in New Delhi for the goddess’ blessings.

“Paswan’s family in Delhi is doing everything. Paswan will join them on Dashami,” a leader close to Paswan said.

Dozens of ministers, particularly those from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) including Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, ministers Ashwani Choubey and Griraj Singh and many former central and state ministers and MPs are celebrating the festival in their homes.

BJP state president C.P. Thakur has also done kalash sthapna at his private residence. Some Congress leaders too are taking time out to worship despite campaign engagements.

(Imran Khan can be contacted at [email protected])