Kinnaur: Independent India's first voter, the 106-year-old Shyam Saran Negi passed away Saturday morning at his native place in Himachal Pradesh's Kalpa, days after he cast his last vote in the 14th Assembly elections of the state.
Negi had cast his first vote in the independent country on October 23, 1951, in the Kalpa polling station, becoming the first voter in the country, and he cast his vote for the 34th time on November 2 this year which became his last, a feat that was acknowledged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "This is commendable and should serve as an inspiration for the younger voters to take part in the elections and strengthen our democracy," PM Modi had tweeted.
The 106-year-old had voted on November 2 through a postal ballot.
Chief Minister Jairam Thakur consoled Negi's demise and said that the memory of the first voter of the country casting his last vote "will always be emotional".
"Saddened to hear the news of the demise of Shyam Saran Negi ji, the first voter of independent India and who belonged to Kinnaur. While performing his duty, he cast his postal vote for the assembly elections for the 34th time on November 2, this memory will always be emotional," Thakur tweeted.
"May God bless his virtuous soul at his feet and give strength to the bereaved family members," he added.
Deputy Commissioner of Kinnaur Amandeep Garg said that Negi will be cremated with full state honour.
Chief Electoral Officer, Maneesh Garg expressed his condolences on the demise of Negi and said that he "motivated generations of voters for exercising their right to franchise for strengthening the democratic set up".
In a statement, Garg said, "Such was his commitment that he voted till the last breath of his life as he had cast his vote through postal ballot on 2nd November, at his home in Kalpa."
"Negi was a noble human being and I pray to the almighty to give peace to the departed soul and strength to the family members to bear the irreparable loss. He will be cremated with full state honours today," the statement said.
Popularly known as Master Shyam, he became the first voter of Indian democracy as the general polls of the country were conducted in January and February 1952. Keeping in mind snow and weather conditions, the polls were conducted in the month of October 1951 in Himachal Pradesh. Negi has participated in every Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha and all local bodies elections since 1951.
Born in July 1917 in the tribal district of Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh, Negi had been a state icon since 2014. He had cast his vote 16 times in the Lok Sabha elections.
According to the Chief Electoral Office of Himachal, Negi, a teacher by profession, the centenarian has voted in every election since 1951 and has never missed an opportunity to vote.
On the day the 106-year-old cast his last vote, he asked the people of the country to exercise their right to franchise to strengthen the democratic set up.
"The young voters should consider their duty to vote and contribute to strengthening the nation," he said adding that we should feel proud of our voting right as it helps in choosing the right representative to lead the nation.
District Election Officer cum Deputy Commissioner, Abid Hussain Sadiq said that a red carpet was laid to bring him to the postal booth set up in the compound of his house, according to an official release.
"Negi was brought on a red carpet till the booth where he exercised his right to franchise and soon thereafter his vote was sealed in an envelope and dropped in the ballot box," Sadiq said.
Sadiq along with the returning officer cum SDM Kalpa, Major (retd) Dr Shashank Gupta and the other officers and officials of the district administration honoured the first voter of Independent India.
The Chief Electoral Officer also had extended his felicitation to the centenarian voter.