Shimla: Braving extreme cold, Shyam Saran Negi – believed to be India’s oldest voter at 103 years of age, who also participated in the 1951-52 general election which was the country’s first – cast his ballot on Sunday at Kalpa in the high Himalayas in the first phase of Panchayati Raj polls in Himachal Pradesh.
“I have never missed an opportunity to vote and I am happy to vote in this election,” Negi said in Kalpa, some 275 kms from the State capital, after casting the vote.
He requested youth voters to always take part in the democratic exercise.
A staunch believer in democracy, the centenarian never fails to cast his vote in any election, be it Lok Sabha, Assembly or panchayat.
In 1951, Negi, a retired schoolteacher, was on an election duty and exercised his franchise in Chini constituency – later renamed Kinnaur.
At that time, voting in the snow-bound areas of the mountain State was held ahead of other places in the country.
Negi was accorded a warm welcome by Deputy Commissioner Hemraj Bairwa at the snow-marooned polling booth that was set up 400 metres away from his home.
“Negi is believed to be the oldest voter in India. It is momentous occasion that he came all the way from his house on foot to reach the polling booth without any assistance to cast his vote. After casting the vote, he explained why it’s important to vote,” Bairwa told the media.
He said the local authorities felt elated by getting an opportunity to meet him.
Negi came to the polling station along with his grandson and other family members. He flashed his inked wrinkled finger after voting.
Over 1,200 panchayats are going to polls in the first of the three-phase Panchayati Raj elections in the State.
The remaining two phases are slated for January 19 and 21.