Independent India’s first voter casts ballot in Himachal


Kalpa (Himachal Pradesh) : Himachal Pradesh’s oldest voter Shyam Saran Negi, who has witnessed the shaping of democracy over almost seven decades, Sunday exercised his franchise along with his wife in this tiny picturesque hamlet in Kinnaur district.

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“I am thankful to the god for giving me an opportunity to elect the representative,” Negi told IANS.

But he seemed to be disillusioned with the present political set-up.

“Corruption is at the peak. The leaders we are sending (to the assembly and parliament) are not giving justice. They are getting more involved in corruption and scams,” Negi, 95, who voted in independent India’s first elections, said.

“The politicians are working more like a businessman than a social worker. That is the main reason for lack of development,” he rued, adding “the country needs leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri”.

Recalling his first participation in the polls, Negi said at that time the (poll) facilities were lacking but the voters were excited to participate in electioneering.

“Now the facilities are more but the voters are losing interest.”

“We would love to participate in the next (general) elections too,” he added.

Negi has fathered 10 children. Four of his sons and five daughters are married, while one son is dead. The elderly couple stay by themselves in their wooden house amidst apple orchards.

Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath, while announcing the poll dates in New Delhi for Himachal Pradesh, had identified Negi as the oldest voter.

Negi, who retired from a government primary school in 1975, was among the first to cast his vote in the first Lok Sabha elections in October 1951 in the Chini constituency – later renamed Kinnaur.

At that time, election in snow-bound region was held ahead of other places in the state and the country.

Negi is popular among the locals, mainly apple growers, as “Master-ji”.

“I still have some memories of the first elections. Throughout my life I never missed an opportunity to exercise my franchise, be it assembly or parliamentary polls or even panchayat (village body) elections,” he said.

Chief Electoral Officer Narinder Chauhan said Negi was among the first to vote after independence in the 1951 elections.

According to Chauhan, the state has 9,997 electors above the age of 89 years, while 1,642 electors are of 90 years age.

There were 8,355 electors above the age of 90 years, said the officer.

Chauhan said that 109,115 voters are between the age group of 18 and 19, while 1,154,162 voters are in the age of 30 and 39.

Counting of votes will be Dec 20.