Age, poor health and the winter chill could not prevent independent India’s first voter, 98-year-old Shayam Saran Negi, from keeping his date with the democratic exercise as he voted on Friday in the Himachal Pradesh rural polls.
Negi of Kalpa in Kinnaur district, who has not missed a single election, put to rest speculation that ill health may keep him away from the polling station this time.
Prior to this, the retired schoolteacher voted in the 2014 general elections. He made history by becoming the first to vote in the first Lok Sabha elections on October 25, 1951. He has not missed any opportunity to vote since then.
The old man, aided by his grandson and daughter-in-law, reached the booth in ward number 1, around 4km away from his home, on a car sent by the district administration.
People celebrated the occasion with music as Negi reached the booth and the sub-divisional magistrate along with the district panchayat officer waited in attendance to welcome him.
Pankaj Negi said his grandfather had made up his mind to cast his vote in the second phase of panchayat polls held in Kinnaur. The gentleman, who encourages others to vote, has not been keeping well for the past few months with an aggravated knee problem and weak eyesight.
In 2010, then chief election commissioner Navin Chawla visited Negi’s village, about 250km from Shimla, to honour him as part of the commission’s diamond jubilee celebrations.
The nonagenarian has four sons, five daughters and a long line of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.