Eye on polls next year, Bihar politicians invoke sun god

Eye on polls next year, Bihar politicians invoke sun godPatna, Oct 24 : It is Chhath puja time and like millions of people in Bihar, the politicians were also busy Saturday performing the rituals to seek divine blessings, with an eye on the state assembly polls due next year.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, his political rivals Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad, his wife and former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi and Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan were celebrating Chhath in their homes.

Dozens of ministers of Nitish Kumar's government and many former central and state ministers, legislators and MPs were celebrating the festival at their native villages across the state.

Nitish Kumar's official residence wore a festive look as his elder brother Satish Kumar's family was performing Chhath. "Nitish Kumar is giving a helping hand to the family members despite his tight schedule," a staff member at the chief minister's 1, Anne Marg, residence said.

Kumar's wife Manju Sinha died in 2007. "Kumar may not be performing Chhath directly but he is keen to offer prayers to the sun god," a ruling Janata Dal-United leader close to him told IANS.

A festive air is seen in Rabri Devi and husband Lalu Prasad's new residence, situated a few metres from the chief minister's home in the high security zone here. Rabri Devi's Chhath puja celebrations have been gala affairs every year, attracting attention ever since she became chief minister in 1997.

Lalu Prasad was helping Rabri Devi perform Chhath puja. "Chhath is not an easy festival, it is a difficult one as age-old traditions and rituals have to be followed. Lalu Prasad's presence gives strength to Rabri Devi," a RJD leader close to them said.

A special pond has been erected in Rabri Devi's new residence to worship the sun god. "She has been performing the rituals at her residence instead of going to any river," a staff member at her residence said.

Ram Vilas Paswan along with his wife and son are also camping in the state capital to provide moral support to his brother's families who are performing Chhath.

"Paswan along with his family visited the Lalu-Rabri residence Friday night to participate in the ritual of 'kharna' when sweet dishes are prepared and distributed," a leader close to Paswan said.

The Chhath festival was celebrated Saturday by millions of Hindus who converged on river banks, ponds and other water bodies to worship the setting sun.

They will make an offering to the rising sun on Sunday to mark the end of Chhath, which is celebrated in Bihar six days after Diwali. Married women and middle-aged men lead the preparations and observe fast.

"Nitish Kumar prefers not to celebrate Chhath. He usually keeps away from religious rituals. He celebrated Diwali and Durga Puja with simplicity this year," another member of the chief minister's staff said.

According to official sources, Nitish Kumar was busy monitoring security arrangements during the festive season.

Colourful idols of the sun god riding his chariot with seven horses, a new attraction this year, were being sold on riverbanks that had been cleaned up and decorated by the devotees. The administration along with voluntary organisations worked round-the-clock to clean up neighbourhoods and roads leading up to the banks of rivers and water bodies. (IANS)