Rishikesh (Uttarakhand): It’s a breezy winter morning and the river banks in Rishikesh - the ‘Yoga Capital’ of India - are abuzz with international tourists like always. But, it’s not just the mystic charm of Yoga, the chants of sacred mantras or the glistening Ganga attracting them this time – it’s the election hullabaloo.
Tatiana Kwakernaak, who has come to Rishikesh from Australia, looks curiously at the many flags, posters and banners that have flooded the nooks and corners of the holy town. “There is sloganeering (by political workers) all around and colorful banners have put up in every suburb - it’s an altogether unique experience for me,” he says.
Haddas Vagman from Israel, who is pursuing a yoga course in Rishikesh, says, “In our country, elections take place once in every four years and we vote for a party and not a person. It’s interesting to see how people are seeking votes for an individual here.”
Curious about the hectic electioneering activities, Michael World, who hails from Los Angeles, said he doesn’t “understand the political implications” but he does hope that their end result was not as bad as in his country, referring to the election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States. “Things are very dark (in the US). The political slogans, placards and flags here are crazy indeed but it is 500 times worse in the US these days (with the election of Trump),” he says.
Stephen Linfort from England, a yoga enthusiast, says that the political activities in Uttarakhand were “worth a watch”. “I was wondering what all is going on here and then I got to know about the upcoming elections. Though I no longer have trust in politics and politicians, I find this atmosphere curious,” he says.
Linfort’s friend Jean Charles from France says that he was taken aback when he saw a political rally for the first time in the temple town. “It’s an interesting experience. India is already noisy so a bit more (hustle-bustle) doesn’t hurt,” he chuckles.
Two women from New Zealand, who did not wish to be named, said that they came to know about the elections the “hard way”. “Our taxi was stopped at many places and the police demanded to frisk through our luggage, which was quite a trouble,” they said while making their way to the Ganga banks.
And some inquisitive foreigners also seem to be asking for more. “They are even asking for guides to take them around (to see the polling booths) on the election day,” Mohan Madhesia, a guide at Ram Jhula suspension bridge, said.