97-year-old Himachal man's appeal to vote goes viral

97-year-old Himachal man's appeal to vote goes viral

Just short of being 100 years old, a mountain man’s appeal to the nation to vote has 10 times the number of hits online than a Bollywood megastars’ musical video staring Amitabh Bachchan and Dia Mirza.

The story of Shyam Saran Negi, 97, one of the oldest voters in India and a believer in democracy since 1951, and the musical video were posted by Google India under its Pledge To Vote campaign March 24.

The 2.34-minute video on Negi, showing him trudging through snow-laden paths to reach a polling booth to exercise his franchise, has over 33,000 viewers till Thursday, whereas the musical video has over 3,000 viewers.

The musical video features Amitabh Bachchan, cricketer Virender Sehwag, Dia Mirza, Swara Bhaskar, Sakshi Tanwar, Arjun Rampal, Hrishitaa Bhatt and Raima Sen.

“The upcoming Indian elections will be the largest democratic election in history, with over 800 million voters. This is the true story of a man who never missed an opportunity to vote. Shyam Saran Negi, a schoolteacher from a remote village in the foothills of the Himalayas, has voted in every general election since 1951. He pledges to vote in the 2014 elections, and so should you,” says Google India.

“Voters should exercise their right to franchise and hand over the reins of government to an honest leader who can end corruption and check price rise,” Negi told IANS in an interview.

Negi lives in the picturesque Kalpa village, located at an altitude of 10,000 feet and some 275 km from the state capital, in Kinnaur district, which is known for its delicious apples. The nonagenarian, whose immediate family includes his wife, four sons and five daughters, said it is important to vote. He has several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“I was told about NOTA (None of the Above) option. I believe one must use the right to franchise,” said Negi, eagerly awaiting the polling day in Himachal Pradesh May 7.

Retired as a junior basic teacher from a government school in 1975, Negi was among the first to vote in independent India’s first Lok Sabha battle in October 1951 in Chini constituency – later renamed Kinnaur. At that time, balloting in the snow-bound area was held ahead of other places in the state and the country. Negi is concerned about the deterioration in Indian politics.

In 2010, then chief election commissioner Navin Chawla visited Negi’s village to honour him as part of the Election Commission's diamond jubilee celebrations.