Kalpa (Himachal Pradesh), April 9 (IANS) Shyam Saran Negi, who at 97 has never abstained from voting since India embraced parliamentary democracy in 1951, is urging Indians to vote for candidates “who can generate jobs and provide essential services”.
Negi, whose musical video appeal posted by Google India under its Pledge To Vote campaign is quite a hit, said there is a sea change in Indian politics.
“We should vote only for those candidates who can generate jobs and provide basic essential services like clean drinking water, electricity, education, healthcare and infrastructure like good roads and public transport,” Negi, who lives in this picturesque village in Kinnaur district, told IANS.
But Negi and his wife Hira Mani, 91, refuse to reveal to which party they are going to vote this time. “This is something personal. We have yet to make up our mind,” say the elderly couple.
The couple have never abstained from voting in any election.
“I have always exercised my right to franchise, be it general, state assembly or panchayat elections. One should not refrain from voting even if the weather is hostile or your health is not perfect.
“Now you have NOTA (None of the Above) option too,” added Negi, eagerly awaiting the polling day in Himachal Pradesh May 7.
Retired as a junior basic teacher from a government school in 1975, Negi was among the first to vote in independent India’s first Lok Sabha battle in October 1951 in Chini constituency – later renamed Kinnaur.
At that time, balloting in the snow-bound area was held ahead of other places in the country.
Kalpa village is part of the Mandi Lok Sabha constituency which includes Kullu and Mandi and parts of Chamba and Shimla districts besides tribal-dominated Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti. Their village is at an altitude of 10,000 feet and some 275 km from the state capital.
The Congress has pitted two-time MP Pratibha Singh, wife of Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, against Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Ram Swaroop Sharma from Mandi constituency.
Lying on a cot at his house, Negi said: “Today’s politicians are wasting precious time of parliament by creating ruckus… We should elect only those people who can spare time for serious discussions in parliament and have some vision.”
He is impressed with BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
“Modi is not only a ‘vikas purush’ or a development-oriented man but also a ‘loh purush’ or an iron man,” Negi told IANS.
“From the first Lok Sabha election to this one (16th), there has been tremendous development in the country. But corruption is easting into the vitals.
“At this point in time we need a man with ‘loh purush’ qualities to eliminate corruption,” he said.