March 23: It is a colourful time in Bihar, but politics is not too far from the celebration of colours. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Yadav are in major demand for Holi in the state.
Holi this year brings `Modi mask` and `Modi cap` to the fore with `Nitish pichkari` (water sprinklers or squirters) and `Lalu pichkari` doing brisk business. The Congress leaders, though, are conspicuous by their absence from the Holi scene -- no Holi materials carry party vice-president Rahul Gandhi`s or president Sonia Gandhi`s pictures.
`The Modi, Nitish and Lalu material is in great demand in rural market,` shopkeeper Manjit Kumar said.
Going by the mood in the wholesale Holi market in Patna city, Modi and his political rivals Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad are rivals in the market place too.
Shopkeeper Raju Sawarnkar said the colourful Modi cap and Modi mask are the first choice of people, particularly youth and children. But among water sprinklers or squirters, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad seem to be more in demand.
The masks are selling between Rs 125 and Rs 200, depending on the locality, while the cap is going for up to Rs 80.
According to Abhijit Kumar, a shopkeeper in Kadamkuan area of Patna, people are willing to pay more for a Modi picture on mask than other celebrities.
But as are the exigencies of the market, the leaders need not be selling only made-in-India product. Traders are pasting pictures of the leaders on water sprinklers imported from China. Is that going against the make-in-India campaign?
It`s not only the Congress leaders who are absent from the marketplace of colours. Former chief ministers Jitan Ram Manjhi and Rabri Devi are forgotten too. In politics, flavour of the month is what counts.
In keeping with the spirit of the festival, where jokes and spoofs abound, local political leaders are keeping a tab on which of their leaders is selling more, often linking their popularity with the amount of money earned by the shopkeepers in the run-up to the Holi.
The politicians have not totally overshadowed the celebrities, though.
Bollywood stars and cricket icons are there too -- the usual ones. But the Indian Premier League T20 has caught the attention of the buyers too, with Sri Lankan superstar Lasith Malinga`s wig selling for a premium.
Some of the campaigning for `safe colours` seemed to have made a dent.
Manjoor Alam, selling coloured powder in the market, said people were keen to purchase herbal colours.
`I have seen this happening in the last few years. People are even willing to pay more for the herbal variety,` he added.