Solitary sentinels of democracy in East, West frontiers

For the April 11 polls, a team will travel from Hawai, the headquarters of Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh, to Malogam, where Sokela lives.

Sokela Tayang and Bharatdas Darshandas live over 3,500 km apart, but they share a unique responsibility.

They are the solitary sentinels of democracy in the east and western frontiers of India.

They stand out among nearly 90 crore people, who are eligible to vote in the forthcoming parliamentary polls across India — the largest festival of democracy in the world.

Sokela is the only voter at a polling station located in a remote village in Arunachal Pradesh, close to India’s disputed boundary with China. As is Bharatdas, in a polling station at Gir Somnath district in Gujarat — again not very far from India’s maritime boundary with its troublesome neighbour Pakistan.

For the April 11 polls, a team will travel from Hawai, the headquarters of Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh, to Malogam, where Sokela lives.

They will carry with them two sets of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) devices, one set for the parliamentary polls and the other for the Legislative Assembly polls of Arunachal Pradesh.

39-year-old Sokela is expected to cast votes in both EVMs.

The polling for the election to the Legislative Assembly in Arunachal Pradesh will take place along with the Lok Sabha polls on April 11.

“We had sent a polling team to get her (Sokela) and her husband’s votes during polling for the Lok Sabha and state Assembly elections in 2014,” Arunachal Pradesh Joint Chief Electoral Officer D J Bhattacharjee told DH over the phone from Itanagar.

“Since she is now the lone voter registered in that polling station, we will send the team to get her vote,” he said.

Sokela and husband Janelum Tayang were also the only the voters for the bypolls at the Hayuliang Assembly constituency in 2016.

Husband’s name deleted

She, however, became the lone voter in the village after the electoral roll was recently revised. Bhattacharjee said he is not aware of how the husband’s name was deleted from the roll.

A polling team with an EVM and a VVPAT will also travel into the Gir Forest in Gujarat on April 23 — the day 26 parliamentary constituencies of the state will go to polls — only to record Bharatdas’s vote.

“He is the lone voter in the polling station at Banej in Una,” V M Prajapati, Deputy District Election Officer of Gir Somnath, told the DH over the phone.

“We have sent teams just to get his vote in the past elections also. He turns up to cast his vote every time, be it the Lok Sabha polls or the State Assembly polls,” Prajapati said.

“That we take care to ensure participation of two lone voters in remote polling stations in eastern and western ends of our country speaks volumes about the commitment of our democracy to take everyone along,” former Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath said.

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Solitary sentinels of democracy in East, West frontiers

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