'Outsiders' do not impress residents of Mussoorie (Election Special)

Mussoorie (Uttarakhand), April 27: India might be riding high on election fervor but for Mussoorie, it's a low-key affair. The reason: the candidates are always "outsiders" and are not expected to do much for this tourist destination or improve its facilities and solve its problems.

With candidates either from Tehri or Dehradun, the people said that not much campaigning happens in this small and increasingly crowded hill town.

However, they were quick to add that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has been trying to make its presence felt with vigorous campaigns and celebrity support.

"Elections in our town have always been a low key affair, and it is the same this year as well. There are no local candidates, everyone is an outsider," Sunil Arora, owner of the Cambridge Bookstore, told IANS.

Mussoorie, a small hill town in Uttarakhand, falls in the Tehri Garhwal Lok Sabha constituency. It has around 102,703 voters.

Ugen Negi, a 42-year-old bank employee, echoed Arora.

"Mussoorie is a hill town, and the needs of this place are very different. So, it is essential to have a local candidate. But this, unfortunately, has never happened," Negi told IANS.

For Shikha Dutt, the elections are something which just "come and go", and hold no particular significance.

"Elections come and go, but nothing changes here. It really doesn't matter who gets elected. We hardly know them," Dutt, a primary school teacher, stated.

The people, who have over the years seen the two major parties - the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party - this year are keenly noticing the new entrant in the fray, the AAP.

Though not as omnipresent as in other parts of the country, the trademark AAP caps, flashing the "Main Hoon Aam Aadmi" slogan can be seen around.

"The AAP candidate has been vigorously campaigning. He even has celebrities supporting him," added Arora.

AAP has fielded Anoop Nautiyal, a former COO of Uttarakhand's 108 Emergency Service. His candidature has been actively supported by actors like Ayub Khan and Archana Pooran Singh.

Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah, the incumbent MP from the constituency, is the BJP candidate, while the Congress has fielded Saket Bahugana, son of former chief minister Vijay Bahugana.

"I think AAP will be able to bring about a change in the country. And I feel all of it will be for the good," Saket Dutt, a curio shop owner who wore the traditional boat-shaped cap, told IANS.

Agreed Karan Chaudhary, who said that the country has had enough of the Congress and BJP-led governance.

"We should think on a larger perspective as this is the Lok Sabha election. Enough of Congress and BJP! I think this time people should vote for AAP and contribute to bringing change," Chaudhary explained.

Though some were keen on trying out the rookie party, there were BJP loyalists in abundance.

"I do not know the candidates who are contesting from here. We have always voted for BJP, and will do the same this time as well," Arjun Singh, who works in the housekeeping section of a hotel, said.

Echoing this, Neetika Shah, who owns a shop on Mall Road added: "We already have an MLA from BJP, so it is always good to vote for the same party."

Though hoardings of the Congress and the BJP could be counted on one's fingertips, those of Japender Singh of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) seemed more prominent.

Despite the low-key campaigning and lack of interest among voters, some locals expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of casting their votes.

"As a citizen of the country, voting is not only my right but also my duty. So I am going to vote, and also take all my friends along," Shilpi Negi, a first time voter and college student, told IANS.

Sharing the same feeling, Manoj Shah, a rickshaw puller, said: "I will definitely go to vote, but for who, I do not know."

Voting for Uttarakhand's five Lok Sabha seats will be held on May 7 in the penultimate round of the 10-phased polls that began April 7 and will conclude May 12. The results will be declared May 16.


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