Having witnessed the shaping of democracy for almost seven decades, Shyam Saran Negi, the state’s oldest voter from this tiny picturesque hamlet in Kinnaur district, wants to again exercise his franchise when assembly polls are held next month.
But he seems to be disillusioned with the present political system.
Civil society activist Anna Hazare’s crusade is an inspiration for this nonagenarian, whose family includes his wife, four sons and five daughters.
“There is total downfall in the political system. One controversy after another is surfacing everyday. We simply can’t calculate the number of zeros of the amount involved,” Negi, 95, who voted in country’s first elections, told IANS.
Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath, while announcing the polls 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 independent India’s first Lok Sabha election in October 1951 in the Chini constituency – later renamed Kinnaur.
At that time, election in snow-bound was held ahead of other places in the state and the country.
Though his ripe age has rendered him partially blind and hard of hearing, the verve in his voice still rings with conviction.
“My eyesight is falling and I can’t walk long without somebody’s help, but I would exercise my franchise this time too,” he said.
“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.
Sitting on a wooden plank outside his house along with his wife, he said: “These politicians are sheer wasting precious time of Parliament by preferring to create ruckus inside the house rather than have some serious discussions. They have no moral right to re-contest the elections.”
But the crusade launched by social activist Anna Hazare will bring some fruitful results, he added.
“The country which is known for largest democracy in the world needs some reforms to keep it alive. Otherwise, the days of democracy are numbered.
“There has to be some checks and balances on the way the politicians are looting the country. Some reformists like Anna will definitely bring some positive results,” the grand old man, who has been living in this village, located at an altitude of 10,000 feet, since his birth, said.
In 2010, then chief election commissioner Navin Chawla had visited Negi’s village to honour him as part of the Election Commission’s diamond jubilee celebrations.
The state election department has a video recording of Negi casting his vote in the 2007 assembly elections.
According to the election department, Negi’s voter identity card number this time is 25,232,66.
Himachal Pradesh will elect new 68-member assembly Nov 4 and the votes will be counted Dec 20.