In Himachal’s Kufri, a hill station situated in the middle of beautiful vistas surrounded by majestic mountains, people associated with the tourism industry like yak owners, snow rabbit rearers and horse riders are split between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress this election.
While some hail the Jairam Thakur government for carrying out development works, others accuse him of not giving due importance to the tourism sector and ignoring the plight of unemployed youth.
“The BJP government has done a lot of work in the last five years. They should be given another chance to take forward their agenda of development. I will vote for BJP because Congress did nothing when it was in power,” says Kalawati, a 53-year-old woman who sells garments in the town.
Though locals are sharply divided over their voting choices, almost all of them agree that a lot needs to be done to develop Kufri as a popular tourist destination.
Kalawati, whose humble shop helped her send two children for B.Tech and MBA studies, demands better roads, benches, drinking water facilities, and improved cleanliness to make Kufri a tourist-friendly hill station.
Locals say the government needs to develop new tourist spots near Kufri like Mahashu Peak.
“Tourists often express disappointment over tourist facilities in Kufri. As a result, business or tourist footfall has not seen a rise. I will vote for a candidate or the party which promises to make Kufri a better town,” says Bal Krishna Thakur, who has been ferrying tourists on his horse for the last 35 years.
Though he is not “satisfied” with the performance of the BJP government, he hopes that the party will perform better this time. “Modi Ji has given a lot to Himachal Pradesh,” he smiles.
However, many, particularly the youth, insist a regime change is the only way to bring better days.
Kahan Singh Verma, a 58-year-old man who charges tourists for getting photos clicked with his snow rabbit, says, “This government has done nothing in the last five years. My two sons have completed graduation, but they could not get a job. This government is useless. Congress is needed to bring changes.”
Verma, who earns ₹400-500 per day, wants a government insurance scheme for such exotic animals. “Animals like snow rabbits are very tough to find and rear. They should be covered under an insurance policy,” he demands.
Amid shifting loyalties and political leanings, one issue remains constant in all conversations of this picturesque town – unemployment.
Pawan Chauhan (21), a yak owner, blames the present BJP government for high unemployment rates and outmigration.
“The BJP government is of no use and should go. This government is corrupt. Nothing happens without giving bribes, which the poor cannot offer… Another party should come to power,” says Chauhan, who has completed some professional courses in tourism and adventure sports.
He continues, “I have appeared in many exams and interviews but today I am left with no option but to take up some menial jobs.”
Though some laud chief minister Jairam Thakur’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in the state. “We have seen tremendous changes in the BJP government, but a lot has to be done to develop the tourism sector of Kufri,” says Narendra Thakur, a panchayat employee.