Patna: Sanjeev Kumar Gupta, son of Nand Lal Prasad, doesn’t ask much of the political leaders. He only wants them to acknowledge his father’s small contribution to the great democracy. Who pray, is Nand Lal Prasad? Well, he is the owner of the famous litti-chokha shop on Veer Chand Patel Road, which in many ways is the political nerve centre of Bihar. The road houses the headquarters of all important political parties of the state – the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Janata Dal (United), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

A photo of Nand Prasad is seen at the litti-chokha shop. Tarique Anwar/Firstpost

A photo of Nand Lal Prasad is seen at the litti-chokha shop. Tarique Anwar/Firstpost

Established in 1966, this shop used to be the war room of the famous Bihar Movement of 1974. The movement was initiated by students of the state under the leadership of veteran Gandhian socialist Jayaprakash Narayan, popularly known as JP, against the misrule and corruption under the then Congress regime.

The youth leaders of that time such as Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Hukmdev Narayan Yadav, Shivanand Tiwari, Karpuri Thakur, Sushil Kumar Modi, Vashishtha Narayan Singh, Munshi Lal Rai, Lakhshmi Saha, Inder Kumar, Gopal Sharan Shastri, Ram Vilas Paswan and others used to gather here everyday to strategise the day-to-day activities of the movement. They used to have breakfast, lunch and dinner here during their days of struggle.

“At that time, all of us were involved in the anti-Congress agitation under the banner of Bihar Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti (BCSS). Lalu Prasad Yadav was chosen president of the BCSS. Among several contemporary youth leaders were Sushil Kumar Modi, Narendra Singh, Vashishtha Narayan Singh and Ram Vilas Paswan. Our demands were related to education and food in hostels. Being students of weaker economic backgrounds, we were not capable enough to even meet the expenses of three meals a day. The shop of Nand Lal ji saved us all. He never demanded money from us. In this way, the amount outstanding against our names kept rising. Some of us paid up while others forgot,” Mahendra Singh, a regular visitor to the shop, told Firstpost.

“No stalwart of Bihar politics, be it Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad Yadav or Sushil Kumar Modi, can claim that he has not visited the place. This eatery stands witness to the political journey of all rising stars of the state. All of us have survived on litti-chokha and tea of this shop during the days of struggle,” says Chotan Singh, who shared a cell in prison with Nitish Kumar where they were put behind bars during the Emergency.

Ironically, he says, most of his colleagues failed to even recognise the support extended by Nand Lal, forget about paying him back with government jobs to his children. Out of the three sons of Nand Lal, the eldest one is physically challenged and the other two are in the same business.

But over the years, things have changed. A majority of the regular visitors of the shop who are now political bigwigs have stopped coming to the place. But Karpuri Thakur was an exception. “Karpuri Thakur ji used to come here on foot without any bodyguard and cavalcade every morning as part of his morning walk,” said Nand Lal’s youngest son Sanjeev who now runs the shop after his father’s death.

The shop drew so many people till 2000, before the formation of Jharkhand, that people had to wait for hours for their turn. It is almost deserted now. Now, it is frequented by only those who have no political aspirations.

Gupta says Nitish Kumar still has a small long-pending due for food. His list of defaulters includes several living or dead political stalwarts of the state. Asked why he does not ask the leaders to pay their dues, he replies, “No, never. It is a pleasure for our family that our shop made an important contribution in the great movement. How can we think about asking for money from those who used to be my father’s friend and contributed to save the democracy? We need their blessings, not their money.”

“We only expect from whosoever forms the government post election that our father’s valuable contribution towards society get recognition,” he added.

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Why democracy owes a debt to this litti-chokha shop in Bihar’s political nerve centre