The man known as ‘India’s first voter’ dies aged 105

Shyam Saran Negi
Shyam Saran Negi

Shyam Saran Negi is thought to have been the first person to cast a ballot when India held its first general election after gaining independence from British rule.

Mr Negi has voted in every election since then.

The centenarian had cast his ballot just three days ago before his death on Saturday, in the assembly elections for his state of Himachal Pradesh.

The retired teacher is thought to be the first person to vote in an independent India because his state opened polling booths five months early in 1951 for the 1952 election to avoid heavy snow.

The result was a landslide victory for the Indian National Congress and Jawaharlal Nehru became India’s first democratically elected prime minister, following nearly 100 years of British colonial rule between 1848 and 1947.

Earlier this week, officials from the Electoral Commission laid out a red carpet for Mr Negi when he cast his postal ballot ahead of the 12 November election.

Shyam Saran Negi makes his way to the polling station in India's 2019 general election
Shyam Saran Negi makes his way to the polling station in India’s 2019 general election

Indian media reported it was the first time Mr Negi had not attended a polling booth, opting to post his ballot instead due to ill-health.

In 2014, Mr Negi was made a brand ambassador for the Electoral Commission in a bid to encourage voting and starred in a Google video encouraging people to vote in the year’s general election.

As he posted his papers on Wednesday, India’s The Tribute newspaper reported that Mr Negi made a statement urging young people to vote.

“Youth should come forward to participate in the democratic process as it is not only our right but also our duty to participate in the elections by exercising our franchise,” he was quoted as saying.

Speaking at an election rally on Saturday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to Mr Negi. The government has said he will be cremated with full state honours at his village in Kalpa.

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