Himachal Pradesh witnessed peaceful polling for the panchayats on the first day of New year reporting a record turnout of 75 to 80 per cent polling in 732 panchayats in the first phase. This will be followed up by two other phases on January 3 and 5.
The biggest highlight of the day’s polling was the participation of Shayam Saran Negi, independent India’s oldest voter, who despite his ailing health and age, tracked his way to the polling booth at Kalpa in the tribal district of Kinnaur to cast his vote.
Two days back, Negi had showed his helplessness to reach the polling booth 1 km from his house and thus creating doubts about his participation in the polls.
“Till now, Negi, 98, has not missed even a single elections whether Lok Sabha, state assembly or Panchayat to exercise his franchise.So, we made necessary arrangements for providing him a vehicle to reach the polling booth, where he was also felicitated by the officials,” confirmed N K Lath, Deputy Commissioner Kinnaur.
The State Election Commission had also issued an instruction to the local administration to ensure Negi’s participation polls.
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In 2014 polls, Negi was Election Commission’s brand ambassador for motivating the voters to cast their votes to strength the democracy. Google had also shot a special video clip on him and an appeal for participating in the polling.
It was in October of 1951, Negi, who belongs to village Chini (now Kalpa) had voted in the first election of the independent India. The polling in Kinnaur was held months before rest of India in because of impending snow season .The Indian Express was first to break his story being the oldest living voter (Shayam Saran Negi ) of the Independent India in October 2007 –ahead of the state assembly polls. Since 1951, Negi had braved his age and tough terrains (weather hostilities ) to be part of every election.
Later Election Commission of India had honoured Negiin during Diamond Jubilee year of the ECI in 2010. Meanwhile giving details about today’s polling State Election Commission T G Negi told the barring few instances of some untoward incidents, two reported in Shimla district alone, the polling have gone peacefully and large turnout of the voters was very significant to show voters’ faith in the panchayat polls held along with Block Samities and Zila Parishad awards.
“The polling reported around 70 to 8o per cent may be higher upto 90 per cent in certain panchayats keenly contested by the candidates,” said Negi.
However, he informed that voting had been rescheduled for Badhal panchayat of Jubbal area in Shimla district, where 29 blank ballot papers were found missing before the voting. Out of these, 22 ballot papers were traced later from a person named as Mohan Singh. Seven papers were still missing. The FIR has been registered in this regard at Jubbal police station.
Similarly, 50 blank ballot papers were also found missing in Khamadi Panchayat of Nankhari area in Shimla district. The result of this panchayat has been withheld and would be declared after the clearance of these papers. FIR has also been lodged. Negi said around 5371 polling parties were deployed at the polling stations for the first round of panchayat polls. Voting for 790 panchayats would be held on January 3, 2016, for which 5796 polling centres have been set up. About 554 Panchayats would go for polling in the third round on January 5 for which 4712 polling centres have been set up.