Shyam Saran Negi | Photo: ANI
Shimla: Three days after casting his vote for the 34th time, India's first voter Shyam Saran Negi died on Saturday at his home in Kalpa in Himachal Pradesh. He was 106.
Negi, who was the Election Commission's brand ambassador, voted for the Himachal Pradesh assembly polls through postal ballot on November 2, the poll panel said. It was the last vote for the man who was 31 when India gained its Independence and witnessed the passage of democracy through the decades.
As news came in of the death of the indefatigable voter, who emblemized the conscientious Indian citizen and performed his electoral duties almost till his dying day, scores of people gathered at his home in Kalpa in Kinnaur district to bid him farewell. Police personnel also paid their respects to Negi.
His death was condoled by leaders across the spectrum, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge as well as Rahul Gandhi.
"I learnt about the death of Shyam Saran Negi when I was leaving from New Delhi in the morning. The 106-year-old had voted more than 30 times in his life,” Modi said at a rally in Sundarnagar in Mandi district.
"Just a few days ago, Negi had cast his vote through postal ballot for the Himachal Pradesh polls. Even before his demise, he discharged his duty." Negi's outlook towards democracy will inspire the country's youth, the prime miister added.
"With a heavy heart, I bow my head to pay homage and express my deepest condolences to his kin," the prime minister said.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur took to Twitter to condole the death. "I am pained to learn about the passing away of India's first voter Shyam Saran Negi. Adhering to his duty, he cast his vote for the 34th time on November 2 though postal ballot. This thought will always make me emotional.”
While Himachal Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer Maneesh Garg said Negi was the brand ambassador for the Election Commission, a spokesperson from the poll panel described him as a "man with exceptional faith in democracy".
"He inspired millions to vote, even before his demise, he voted for Himachal Pradesh Assembly Elections 2022 through postal ballot on November 2, 2022," the Election Commission said on Twitter.
The BJP and Congress, too, condoled Negi's death.
"The BJP expresses deep sadness and condolences on the demise of independent India's first voter Shyam Saran Negi. May God grant peace to the departed soul," the party said on its Twitter handle.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi wrote, "The demise of India's first voter Shyam Saran Negi is a sad news. He has seen the country take its first breath in a free sky and held on to the strings of democracy till his last breath. Negi will always remind us of our obligation towards the nation."
Congress president Kharge said he was pained to hear the news.
"The best example of his unwavering devotion towards democracy is that he cast his vote for the 34th time on November 2. My condolences to the departed soul," Kharge said in a tweet in Hindi.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said Negi gave a unique example of his duty towards democracy by voting in every election.
The Election Commission had announced the elections on October 14. The single phase election will take place on November 12 and the votes will be counted on December 8.
The poll panel said voters above 80 years, persons with disabilities and Covid patients would be allowed to vote through postal ballot. However, the secrecy of their votes would be ensured and the facility of voting would be made at the comfort of their homes.