It's Nitish all the way in urban Patna
Patna: When it comes to urban Patna, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar holds the sway. Some see him as 'vikas purush' or 'development man' of the state. Others feel he is committed to change the face of Bihar's poor, and for some he is no less than a miracle worker.
He is clearly more popular than any other state politician and people, mostly belonging to the middle classes in urban localities, are rooting for him.
Of course, they know he is not perfect as heaps of garbage are still seen on most roads and the state capital still faces a shortage of electricity and drinking water, but the people in Patna want Nitish Kumar to return to power.
As 42 constituencies, including four urban seats in Patna, go to polls Monday in the fourth round of the six-phase state assembly elections, Nitish Kumar's name seems to be on everyone's lips. If that is something to go by, the mood of the voters is firmly in favour of Nitish Kumar.
"Nitish Kumar deserves another five-year term...We will vote for him," said Chandeshwar Prasad, a retired government official here.
Mukesh Kumar, an engineering student in his early 20s, says he backs Nitish Kumar for initiating development work, improving law and order and giving people the hope for a developed Bihar.
"I am used to filthy surroundings and regular power cuts that I hate...but I'm a fan of Nitish Kumar, who deserves to be in power," Mukesh, who stays in the upscale Rajendra Nagar locality, told a news agency.
Sharique Ali, a businessman, said the chief minister has done good work and had promised to turn Bihar into a power surplus state in the next five years.
"Electricity shortage is a problem even in Patna but our hope lies with Nitish Kumar that he will work towards this problem," Ali said.
Nitish Kumar's larger-than-life image among the urban population is bound to benefit his Janata Dal-United's (JD-U) alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has three candidates in the fray - Nand Kishor Yadav from Patna Saheb, Nitin Navin from Bankipur and Arun Sinha from Kumharar.
In the fourth seat of Digha, the JD-U's candidate Poonam Devi is sitting comfortably despite opposition by a section of BJP workers, who claim the seat was snatched from their party by Nitish Kumar in the seat-sharing arrangement.
A BJP leader admitted that the party candidates are depending heavily on the chief minister's development plank in urban Patna.
Unlike in the past, most people are no longer worried about lawlessnes that plagued their area earlier like incidents of kidnapping, extortion and murder by gangsters.
"We have been facing problems like waterlogging and overflowing drains but now the roads are good and law and order has improved like never before due to steps taken by Nitish Kumar. He deserves another chance to get rid of the garbage," said Atul Sharma, a school teacher.
Nitish Kumar too has not failed to remind the electorate during his campaigning that the rule of law had been established and over 50,000 criminals have been convicted during his rule.
He also uses the fear factor to woo voters, warning of a re-run of crime if he was not voted to power.
"The chief minister's words impress the urban middle class as well as lower middle class," Anish Ankur, a theatre activist, said.
And Nitish Kumar has got the thumbs up from the women too - from college students and professionals to housewives.
"We are keen to give Nitish Kumar another term," said housewife Chanchal Singh.
So what is their take on Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad?
"For urban middle class voters, Lalu is rustic and a useless leader," Ankur said, adding that the foremr chief minister is still popular in rural Patna where he commands a strong social support base.