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  A village in the hills

A small village about 29 kilometres from the hill station town of Nainital. A few shops, houses that dot the hillside, a veranda-based primary school where four and five year olds learn their Barakhadi (the Hindi alphabet) as they watch the world pass by… And banners, buntings, posters of the Congress nominee for Nainital, Narain Dutt Tiwari, wherever you look.

This is Padampuri, his ancestral village.

"He has no cause to worry," says an ancient resident. "All the votes here belong to him." A fact that seems to have been acknowledged by the other contestants for the Nainital seat. So much so that Balraj Pasi (BJP), Naina Ahmed (BSP) and Muzzaffar Ali (SP) have not even bothered to campaign here.

The BJP, though, is making a semblance of an attempt to inroad into the area -- there are a few buntings and a jeep roams around the area blaring election-related messages and songs. But they don't seem to be able to counter the impact of Tiwari's four terms as CM or his years as Cabinet minister at the Centre.

Tiwari knows this, which is why his last visit to Padampuri was on August 23, to seek the blessings of the family deity. There is a Congress office, but Tiwari's cousins know they do not need to campaign in Padampuri. When were there, his cousin, Durga Dutt, was out campaigning in the nearby areas. A nephew had come down from Lucknow to help out during the elections.

The Tiwaris have been living here for decades. They still possess two and half acres of land, on which Narain Dutt Tiwari's uncle's sons still raise seasonal crops. Now they supplement their income with a garments business and a few shops in the village.

Yet, they do not seem to have benefited from any largesse from their famous scion. Leela, the wife of N D Tiwari's late cousin, Jagdish Chand, says, "Not much has changed. But we have cemented the house, repaired the roof and added the polyhouses on the farm."

Otherwise, it is like any other house. They have a television connection and there are the usual squabbles on which channel to watch. "I like Doordarshan and dharmik programmes like the Mahabharat and the Ramayan. But the children prefer all these serials on Zee and Sony."

A hospitable family, they offered Savera R Someshwar and photograher Jewella C Miranda tea and freshly roasted corn on the cob. And when they realised they had not had lunch, they offered to whip up a quick meal. "Bacchon ke liye banaya tha," Leela told them, "but they have not come home yet. Why don't you have lunch here? I will make more for them."

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