Over 100 years in age, grand old voters have voting zeal intact


117-year-old Kathudiya Vasava in Narmada's Dediapada constituency remembers having cast his first vote in India's first general elections held in 1951. "The one that was held after Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated," is how he remembers it. A resident of Rozaghat village, he plans to cast his vote along with around 60 other members of his extended family during the upcoming Assembly elections.

Punuben Vasava, who turned 102 this year, is from Bandi Shervan village in the same constituency. For her, the day of election is one of celebration. "She'd get ready early in the morning on election day and would prod other family members to get ready and go to cast their votes," her daughter-in-law, Jermaben Vasava said.

Welcome to the club of centenarian voters in Gujarat!

"During pre-Independence days, the British Indian police would come to our village and force us into labour. They would beat us if we failed to turn up to work," Kathudiya recalled. "I first voted in the election that was held after Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, and have tried and participated in all other elections," he said.

In his family, there are over 60 voters who accompany him to the polling booth on an election day. They include over 20 young voters who are in the age group of 18-29 years.

Similarly, Puneben has still retained her enthusiasm for voting. "She would wake up early morning and get ready to go to the polling booth, which is nearly one-and-a-half kilometres from our house. Not just that, she would also ask other villagers to go out and vote," says Jarmaben, Puneben's daughter-in-law.

Election officials in Narmada district have prepared a list of 26 voters in Nandod and Dediapada, both constituencies for scheduled tribes, who are above 100 years of age.

Poll officials intend to approach them with assurance of help in casting their votes as part of Election Commission's Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) programme, launched in 2009 to increase electoral awareness and participation.

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