At 103, India’s first voter casts vote in Himachal panchayat polls
Shimla, Jan. 17 (PTI): Despite his failing vision and aching knees, India’s first voter Shyam Saran Negi reached his polling booth in Himachal Pradesh’s Kinnaur to exercise his franchise in the panchayat elections on Sunday.
Negi, who is 103-year-old, cast his vote at the Kalpa polling booth, where he was given a warm welcome by laying a red carpet by the district administration.
Kalpa went to polls in the first round of the three-phase panchayati elections in Himachal Pradesh on Sunday.
Deputy Commissioner Hemraj Bairwa honoured Negi with a Kinnauri ‘topi’ and shawl. The DC said young voters should get inspiration from Negi, who turned up to cast his vote despite bad health.
In his message to people, Negi said voters should participate in the election process to elect good and capable candidates.
Negi, who had made a special appearance in a Hindi film, Sanam Re , said he never missed casting his vote, be it panchayat, assembly or the Lok Sabha polls.
He appealed to people to elect honest candidates for their panchayats in the state.
Believed to the first voter in the 1952 General Election, Negi was born on July 1, 1917 and retired as a schoolteacher, as per official records.
Remembering how he became the country’s first voter, Negi had earlier said the India’s first General Election was held in February 1952 but in tribal areas of the state, the voting took place five months in advance on October 23, 1951 due to fears of inclement weather rendering the exercise impossible during winter.
I was a schoolteacher then and had been put on election duty. Due to it, I reached my polling booth at the Kalpa primary school in Kinnaur at 7 am to cast my vote. I was the first one to reach there and vote, he had said.
Later, I was told I was the first to cast vote anywhere in the area, he had said.
In the first phase, 1,227 panchayats went to polls on Sunday. The remaining two phases are slated to be held on January 19 and 21. The state has 3,615 gram panchayats, of which polling will be held for 3,583, except 32 in Keylong of Lahaul-Spiti district, electoral officer Sanjeev Mahajan said.
The counting of votes for ward members, deputy village heads and village heads will take place soon after voting. However, the counting for members of panchayat samitis and zila parishads will be conducted on January 22.
The election process will be completed by January 23, Mahajan said. The candidates are contesting elections as independents and not on a party symbol.