59 votes in a family, led by 117-year-old

Eighteen-year-old Amrut Vasava Thursday became the youngest voter in his 82-member extended family that has 59 voters, the eldest among them being 117-year-old Kathuriabhai Vasava, who recalls having cast his vote in the first-ever elections held in Independent India.

The family lives together at Rojghat village in tribal-dominated Dediapada constituency, which went to polls in the first phase Thursday.

"I have decided to vote for the party that I feel will help improve the condition of roads and water supply in our village," Kathuriabhai, the family's patriarch, said.

The young members of the family say voting has not changed their living conditions much, and like the elder members of their family, they also have to depend on farming and labour for sustenance. "Many of the young members of the family have studied till Class 10th, and some till Class 12th, but none has a job," said Ranchhod Vasava, the 23-year-old brother of Amrut Vasava.

"They ask for huge money, which we cannot afford," said Raisinh Vasava, who passed his class X board examination a few years ago.

Kathuria dada, as the family patriarch is fondly called, was made the brand ambassador by the Election Commission this year to inspire voters in his area. "Earlier, we had to travel five kilometres to cast our vote, but now the booth has come close to our house. So it was easy for me to walk to the booth," Kathuria said soon after casting his vote.

"I first cast my vote in elections that took place some years after Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was our leader," he recalled.

"A lot has changed in our village. We have got electricity and television, but the young in the family are not getting jobs. We do not have water to irrigate our fields, so we have to depend on rain water," he said.

Gimbabhai Vasava, his son, said a lot was required to be done in the village. "People say there is 24-hour electricity in villages, but we only get power for 4-5 hours a day," he said.

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