First ever to vote in India, first again at Himachal booth

Shyam Saran Negi on his way to casting his vote at Kalpa. Express Shyam Saran Negi on his way to casting his vote at Kalpa. Express

As Himachal Pradesh voted for four Lok Sabha seats Wednesday, Negi kept his date with democracy.

Defying health and age, Negi reached the polling booth at 7 am and became the first voter at Booth 2, Kalpa-50 , in tribal district of Kinnaur, followed by his wife Hira Mani, 87.

Escorted by his granddaughter and daughter-in-law Surma, a local panchayat pradhan, Negi travelled the 2 km from his village to the polling station in a vehicle and then walked the 100 metres to the booth before voting.

Dressed in traditional attire, sporting a Kinnauri cap, Negi was received at the booth with garlands as per instructions from the Election Commission.

“It’s a proud moment for me. A big day that I have been waiting for a long time. I have never missed any election, be it panchayat, assembly or Parliament since October 25, 1951,” he said after voting.

Negi’s commitment to democracy is something the state widely talks about. Kinnaur is part of Mandi parliamentary constituency. Negi recalled the first time he voted in October 1951, six months before the rest of the country, because of snowfall. Kalpa was then known as Chini village.

Last week the state’s chief electoral officer Narinder Chauhan flew to Kalpa and met Negi. “This man, a retired schoolteacher, is filled with lot of enthusiasm and patriotism. He knows the value of the vote and is an inspiration for first-time voters,” Chauhan said..

One such first-time voter was Aditi Minhas, 20, studying medicine at Indira Gandhi Medical College.

“ I was restless the whole night. I was out of bed at 5.15 am and waited for my father to take us to the booth. I live in US Club area and walked up the hill to Jakhu to cast my vote,” she said.