He never skipped voting in a single election since October 25, 1951, when he went to vote in Independent India’s first general election. He is only surviving voter of Kinnaur, a tribal district which went to the polls much before rest of India in 1951. The polling in Kinnaur was advanced for five months because of impending winter snowfall, giving it an opportunity to vote before rest of the country. Even today, he has high hopes of voting for 2019 polls.
Ailing and almost confined to his bed, Shyam Saran Negi, who turned 100 on July 1, says, “Kya pata agle chunav tak zinda hun ke nahi, huaa to vote jaroor karunga (I don’t know if I would be alive for the next polls, but I certainly won’t miss voting if I am alive).”
Negi is eager to see the outcome of the next Assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh, but he sees the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as more crucial to the country, which he says will be a vote on Prime Minister Narendra Modi who won a massive mandate in 2014.
A retired school teacher born in Kalpa village (then known as Chini village), Negi does not miss to tune in to evening news bulletins on his radio to keep himself updated. Among other programmes, he has been been a devoted listener to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “ Mann ki Baat”.
“I just heard him (Mann ki Baat). He (Modi) spoke on violence in Panchukla fanned by supporters of some Baba (Ram Rahim) convicted for his apraadh (crime) on women devotees. Modi is wonderful leader this country has got when corruption and violence are posing the biggest threat. He is a well meaning person. If he gets fresh mandate, which is likely, he will make a difference,” Negi says.
He keeps an update on happenings in the state too. His face turns gloomy talking about recent rape and murder of 16-year-old Kotkhai girl, which he believe was most unfortunate in the peaceful state of Himachal Pradesh. “I heard over radio that the culprits have not been arrested. There was agitation going on for justice to Gudia (victim). A police station was also set on fire. I am very upset over such a thing happening to a small child (girl). Guilty must be punished,” he says. Negi has lost his teeth and turned hard of hearing. But, his eye sight, he says, has not failed and so he sometimes tries to read newspapers also. Asked about CM Virbhadra Singh’s rule during the past five years, Negi just smiles and says, “Woh to chhupa Rustam nikla,” apparently referring to corruption charges against him.
In 2014, HP’s state election commission appointed him as their brand ambassador to create awareness among young voters to participate in the electoral system.
A video made on him by Google went viral in 2014 polls with tile #PledgeToVote # in which he was filmed narrating the story of October 25, 1951, when he had stepped outside to walk towards the polling station despite heavy snowfall.