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Centenarians display youthful vigour as they exercise their voting right

PTI     May 12, 2019

(Eds: Adds Delhi CEO quotes) /R New Delhi, May 12(PTI) Age is just a number, says a family member of 111-year-old Bachan Singh, the oldest voter in Delhi who carried a youthful enthusiasm into the polling station in Tilak Nagar here. Centenarian Bachan Singh and 110-year-old Ram Pyari Sankhwar were the oldest man and woman respectively to cast their vote for the Lok Sabha elections in the national capital Sunday. However, this time, it was a pleasant experience for Bachan Singh and Shankwar, who have been voting since India's first general election following Independence, as they were taken to the polling booth in a car by polling staff and also dropped back. Overwhelmed by this gesture of the Delhi's Chief Electoral Office, they claimed it was a "VIP experience" for them as they felt "important". Till the last assembly elections in 2015, Singh cycled to the polling booth to cast his vote. This time, he reached the booth in a car along with poll officers in full media glare. He was later wheeled into the polling both using a chair. A paralysis attack around three months ago had rendered the centenarian bedridden. Though Bachan Singh cannot talk like the way he did before, but he knows how important his vote is. "I will vote for those who worked for us," he said. Interestingly, Singh doesn't know there's a party called the Aam Aadmi Party and that Arvind Kejriwal is the chief minister of Delhi . "He doesn't even know that the Aam Aadmi Party exists. For him, every election has been a contest between the BJP and the Congress," his youngest son, Jasbeer Singh, 63, says. Jasbeer Singh claims his father has never missed out on an election since 1951. The family says they have traditionally voted for the Congress because former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru "supported Namdhari Sikhs at the time of partition". But they think the Aam Aadmi party should be given another chance in Delhi. Sankhwar, who is suffering from age-related ailments for the last one decade, exercised her franchise in Kondli. Her son Ram Dhani said his mother was overwhelmed as she was taken to the polling station in a car which had the mark of the Government of India with a Delhi constable escorting her. "They treated me like a VIP," she said. "Four days back, the district magistrate and the SDM had come to our house to invite my mother to cast her vote. They also honoured her with bouquets and a shawl," her son said. Tilak Raj, 106, a resident of Adarsh Nagar, also received a message and a call from the polling staff for a pick up early in the morning. "But we told them that we do not need a pick up. We went on our own and he was received with a bouquet at the booth," Deepak Kukreja, Raj's grandson, said. Ganga Devi, 107-year-old resident of Kewal Park was also picked up from home and felicitated at the polling station. According to data shared by the Delhi CEO Office, there are a total of 96 centenarians -- 42 male and 54 female -- who were eligible to vote in the Lok Sabha polls here. Delhi CEO Ranbir Singh told reporters that out of the 96 centenarians 47 exercised their franchise and were felicitated by poll officials. A total of 450 cars were used for pick up and drop facilities, he said. Besides centenarians, several senior citizens, aged above 80, braved the heat and old-age ailments and turned up at the polling booths to exercise their franchise. Sitting on a sofa made available for voters at a model polling station, Major General (Retired) R N Kapoor, a resident of Janakpuri, said it took him no time to cast his vote. "It was the best voting experience I have had so far. It was very convenient and hassle-free," he said. Ninety-two year-old H S Bhatia, a former govt employee, too, was satisfied with the arrangements at the polling booth at Kalkaji Extension even as he expressed unhappiness over the current political scenario. "It is a sad state of affair. Politicians only indulge in mud-slinging. They do not care about the people and their issues," he said, adding he is not bothered about petty issues like water and power and has voted keeping in mind the bigger picture for the country. "We need a strong prime minister who can give a befitting response to enemy countries and also brings in discipline in the political arena. Politics, otherwise, has now been reduced to a cesspool," he said. At several polling booths, policemen were seen assisting elderly persons boarding and de-boarding their vehicles and arranging wheelchairs for them so that they do not face any inconvenience and have a smooth experience. PTI PLB/GVS/KND AQS AQS

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