India's first voter to be feted today

India's first voter to be feted today

For all those who need inspiration to exercise their franchise, this 98-year-old voter from the hill state of Himachal Pradesh sets a fine example.

Far from the urban world is the country’s first official voter, Shyam Negi, who will cast his vote for a record 16th time on Wednesday when the state goes to polls.

A retired headmaster, now settled in Kalpa in Mandi constituency, he has voted in every election, in the state Assembly polls as well. A grand reception awaits Negi when he goes to cast his vote on Wednesday, as the State Election Commission has decided to honour him for his zeal to participate in the world’s largest democratic exercise to elect a regime. He will receive a certificate that lauds his feat.

India’s first general elections were held in February, 1952. But the natives of Kinnaur in Himachal were the first to vote, in 1951. That was because elections in this region had to be advanced by a few months because of the heavy snowfall that would have hindered the process later.

Negi, then a government primary school teacher, was posted at the booth as a poll official. This is why he got the opportunity to vote first in the advanced elections on October 25, 1951. The rest of India voted months later.

While Negi could not be contacted, he shared his experience with Deccan Herald during the last Assembly elections in 2012. He recalled how ballot boxes used to be moved with the help of mules, given the rugged topography and the altitude of 10,000 ft and above. “India’s first polling booth was set up inside the primary school building in the village under the Chini Assembly constituency, later renamed Kinnaur Vidhan Sabha constituency,” he said.

Negi, a father of 10, can walk without support and does not need reading glasses.

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