India's first voter Shyam Negi is a little nervous of the media glare when he goes out to vote one more time on May 7 with the Himachal Pradesh poll panel planning to honour him that day.
"I am feeling a little nervous as there will be a huge media presence on that day," says the 97-year-old Kalpa resident and retired headmaster, who has voted in every election since the first general polls of 1951.
Negi, a voter in all 15 Lok Sabha elections apart from the assembly and local body polls in the state, has also featured in a video by Google India as part of its #PledgeToVote campaign.
Kalpa comes under the Mandi Lok Sabha constituency. The state election commission, which roped in Negi as its poll icon in 2012, is going to accord him a grand reception and honour him on polling day.
Negi, who will turn 98 on July 1, feels voting is the most pious duty of every citizen. "It paves the way to prosperity of the country," he told PTI.
While the first general elections in the country were held in February 1952, the poll process in Kinnaur district took place some four months earlier because of rough weather. Thus, the country's first polling station for the first general elections was set up here. "On October 25, 1951, Negi was the polling officer at the Kalpa booth and since he was on duty, he cast his vote first and thus entered the record books as India's first voter," said Neeraj Sharma of the state election commission.
According to Negi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee is the best leader the country has seen so far though he does not disclose which party he will vote for this time. "In the past 60-odd years, Congress has mostly ruled the country and credit for all development work goes to the party. But nowadays a lot is being said about Gujarat development and Narendra Modi and I think we should give BJP a chance," Negi, who does not use spectacles even at this age to read, says.
He does not like television and prefers the radio to keep himself updated on the latest political and other developments in the country and abroad.