As India held the latest round of its election Wednesday, 97-year-old Shyam Saran Negi once again trudged several miles to vote — a tradition he has kept up since independence in 1947.
The retired teacher, from a remote village high in the Himalayas, has voted in 16 general elections, often walking through heavy snow to reach his local polling station.
A cheering crowd of wellwishers, some blowing trumpets, greeted Negi on Wednesday as he arrived to cast his ballot in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh near the border with China.
“I am happy to get yet another chance to vote. I appeal to all to vote to elect honest leaders,” Negi told AFP from Kalpa village.
Despite his longevity, Negi has retained his enthusiasm for elections and a sense of pride at being able to take part in the world’s biggest democratic process.
“I want India to be led by an honest leader, a leader who is not corrupt in any way,” Negi said before voting.
“Another worry is prices which have risen sharply. These must be tamed and brought down,” he said.
Asked if he remembers voting in 1951 in India’s first general election after independence from Britain, he said: “Absolutely, I remember so well that cold day when I set out to vote for the very first time.
“It was so new to all of us.”
Himachal Pradesh is among seven states voting on Wednesday in the latest leg of the mammoth election which is drawing to a close after five weeks. May 12 is the final leg with results announced four days later.
A video posted online featuring Negi, which was produced by Google India, has been viewed more than 2.8 million times since it was posted in late March.