A year after legendary artist Mahasundri Devi passed away, her home in Bihar's Kaisth Tola village remains a haven for the next generation of Madhubani or Mithila artists. Devi's Madhubani work and the accolades that came along with them fill up the space in three rooms. The multiple paintings, murals and cloths depict the moods of deities, imaginary situations and scenes from Hindu classics such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Devi's daughter-in-law, Vibha Das, laments about the political indifference towards the art, which is a source of livelihood for more than two lakh people in Madbhubani district, spread till the Indo-Nepal border.
"All cultural activities suffered under the 15 years of Lalu Yadav's regime. But Nitish Kumar helped," says Vibha, whose house the Bihar chief minister visited and gave assurances to artists. Despite reaching out to the people in the region, Nitish may not be able to count on their support in the April 30 polling for the 16th Lok Sabha. The electorate, locals and experts say, is divided on caste and communal lines, but Kaisth Tola, a largely Brahmin village, will vote in favour of BJP.
This, despite the fact that the odds are stacked against the party's Hukumdev Narayan Yadav, who faces a massive anti-incumbency wave. Even though locals say that Hukumdev has been indifferent to the region's problems, the 75-year-old is confident of riding along the Modi wave.
The Muslims, who constitute, 17.9 per cent of the population, are divided between the RJD's Abdul Bari Siddiqui and the JD (U)'s Ghulam Gaus.
Nitish has created a wedge among the Muslim community — just as he did with his "Maha Dalit" stroke, which brought the voiceless Dalit sub-castes to the JD (U) fold. He is backing the pasmanda Muslim samaj or the backward Muslim castes, pitching them against dominant Muslim castes. JD(U) candidate Gaus is quick in his defence of Nitish. Muslims, he tells dna, are not homogeneous, just like the Hindus aren't. "There is caste oppression by upper class Muslims on low-class Muslim," says Gaus. He is seeking a Constitutional amendment to end the discrimination of converted dalit Muslims and dalit Christians by including them in the SC list. But he is against granting reservations to Muslims, fearing the benefits will be hijacked by the upper class Muslims.
RJD's Abdul Bari Sidiqui could end up with the maximum Muslim votes; Sidiqui finished second in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. But supporters of RJD's alliance partner, Congress, are angry with Lalu for insisting on the seat since Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmed won from here in 2004, and had set his eyes upon it this time around. It is not just the Muslim consolidation, point out Ahmed's supporters, but also the fact that the BJP's Hukumdev receives jeers from Hindu villagers, fed up with his five years of indifference.
Farmer Khairati Ram, in Uchaitha village, and his supporters say they will vote for BJP's prime ministerial candidate. "I will not vote for the BJP MP. He is rude. But I will vote for its PM," says Ram, flanked by his wife at his paddy field, who nods in agreement.
Their only expectation from Modi is that he fix their tube-well, which stopped pumping water eight years ago even though the village hosts numerous streams and marshes.