Chaumasi is what they would have called 'a one horse town' in the American Western films — a hamlet of just 64 families perched high atop the hills in Uttarakhand, the Himalayan state that goes to the polls today.
Located in Ukimath block of Rudraprayag district, it is one of the remotest polling stations in the state. It's so remote that a bus won't take you there. Only the trekkers that ply once in a while to the village located right at the end of the road will.
The village has 170 voters only. Of these, 11 numbered among the casualties of the 2013 natural disaster. Located just 25 km from the Kedarnath shrine, these were young men who worked in the shops and lodges in the temple town, or took pilgrims up on the mules and palanquins, and were caught in the floods and landslides.
Among these are two father-son pairs — Shiv Singh, 18, and his father Murli Singh, and 19-year-old Sumit and his father Madan Singh. The family of Bairagi Singh lost two young sons — Prakash and Shiv.
The village was also entirely cut off for about a month after the floods and landslides, and food supplies had to be airdropped by the Army. In fact, many people caught in Kedarnath had made their way through the hills to Chaumasi after the disaster.
A year later, electronic voting machines were transported to the town from Agustmuni on Monday, along with four state government officials to man the polling station set up in the government primary school.
Remote it may be, but the village is highly politically conscious. Says Surendra Singh Tinduri, the village Pradhan, "There is nearly 100% voting here. Only one or two of the very old or ill will not go to vote."
Thanks to television, the villagers are in sync with the political discourse raging in the country. BC Khanduri, the BJP candidate in Garhwal constituency of which Chaumasi is a part and a much-respected leader in these parts, had come to the village. So had Shiela Rani Rawat, the sitting Congress MLA, though Harak Singh Rawat, the party candidate did not make it to this outpost.
"This time I can tell that there is a Modi wave in the village," says Tinduri.
Birendra Singh, whose son died in the disaster and who got Rs 5 lakh in compensation, which he is using to build a new house for his family, says, "I have always voted for the BJP, no matter whether it loses or wins."
Others have their loyalties elsewhere. "We will vote for those who have worked to develop the area," says Satya Singh Tinduri, a social worker. One of their demands, says Tinduri, is to rebuild the Ridkoth bridge, destroyed in the floods, and that an alternate route be developed from Chaumasi to Kedarnath.
Politics and politicians' smooth-talking ways have, however, made the villagers circumspect. "When Satpal Maharaj had come campaigning here in 2004, he had shown a torch on the mountains across and had said that he would find gold there if he was elected. But he wasn't even able to grow grass there," laughs Tinduri.