When he cast his first vote in 1951, Shyam Saran Negi did not know that his action would earn him the status of a celebrity. This year, the Election Commission will roll out the red carpet for India’s first voter, 97, as he walks into the Kalpa polling station in Kinnaur assembly segment of the Mandi parliamentary constituency on May 7.
The Election Commission has decided to give a special welcome to Negi and the 120 other people registered at the polling booth, where he cast his first vote on October 23, 1951. Negi was 34 then.
District electoral officer DD Sharma told HT that the administration had decided to declare the Kalpa polling booth a nodal centre and decorate it with flowers, as Negi was an inspiration to all.
He said, “Negi never missed an opportunity to exercise his franchise and motivated others to cast their votes.
The Election Commission, which had declared Negi its brand ambassador under its electoral awareness programme, also distributed campaign material, including an appeal by Negi regarding voting.
Recently, Google India displayed a video of Negi appealing to people not to miss voting. The video was a great hit, proving more popular than those of celebrities exhorting people to vote, prepared by the Election Commission.
Born in 1917, Shyam Saran Negi, a retired government teacher told HT that he never missed voting.
“Sometimes, weather plays the spoilsport for other people, but never for me. I have voted in every election and ask others to do it too,” he said over the telephone.
Sharing his experience as a first-time voter, Negi said it was snowing when he went to cast his vote. “The young people of our country have to show interest in the electoral process, because it will ensure the survival of the democratic setup of the country,” he added.
On the honour being given to him by the Election Commission, Negi said he never thought that performing his duty would bring such rewards.
In 2010, the then-chief election commissioner Navin Chawla visited Negi’s village to felicitate him as part of the body’s diamond jubilee celebrations.