Himachal’s oldest voter casts ballot

Shimla, Jan 1 (IANS) Shyam Saran Negi, 98, one of the oldest voters in India and a staunch believer in democracy since 1951, cast his ballot on Friday in the panchayat elections in Kinnaur district.

“I have exercised my right to vote,” Negi, who is partially blind and hard of hearing, told reporters in Kalpa, some 275 km from the state capital.

His son Chander Prakash told IANS over the phone that his father was taken to the polling booth almost a kilometre away from his house in a car where top officials of the district administration welcomed him.

He said his father never missed an opportunity to exercise his franchise — be it general or assembly or panchayat elections.

Negi’s wife, who normally accompanied him in every election to exercise her franchise, died in January 2014 at the age of 88.

In May 2014 general elections, a musical video was posted by Google India portraying Negi under its Pledge To Vote campaign.

The 2.34-minute video on the nonagenarian, showed him trudging through snow-laden paths to reach a polling booth to exercise his franchise.

“Shyam Saran Negi, a school teacher from a remote village in the foothills of the Himalayas, has voted in every general election since 1951. He pledges to vote in the 2014 elections, and so should you,” said Google India.

“Voters should exercise their right to franchise and hand over the reins of government to an honest leader who can end corruption and check price rise,” Negi had told IANS in an interview.

Negi lives in the picturesque Kalpa village, located at an altitude of 10,000 feet and some 275 km from the state capital, in Kinnaur district, which is known for its delicious apples.

The nonagenarian, whose immediate family now includes his four sons and five daughters, said it is important to vote. He has a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In 2010, then chief election commissioner Navin Chawla visited Negi’s village to honour him as part of the Election Commission’s diamond jubilee celebrations.

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