New Delhi, May 12 (IANS) Bachan Singh is among the millions who voted in the capital on Sunday in the penultimate phase of the general election, but he is unique because of his vintage.
At the ripe old age of 111, Bachan Singh is Delhi’s oldest voter.
His house is within 100 metres of one of the biggest drains in Nihal Vihar in west Delhi.
The road to his house is made of construction debris, and large potholes around the house have turned it into a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Bachan, who was a carpenter and only talks in Punjabi, claims to be a staunch Congress supporter, and identifies himself as a follower of the non-violence movement initiated by Mahatma Gandhi.
He has been voting since the first election in the country after independence in 1951 and he had voted for the Congress then.
“In the first election of the country, I voted for Congress as it was the only political party which had sworn to fight against poverty, but politically, things have not changed much,” said Bachan in Punjabi, translated by his grandson Gurcharan Singh.
Bachan, a Namdhari Sikh, is fluent in Urdu and Punjabi and proudly hails his ancestral connection with Pakistan.
The family has traditionally voted for the Congress because the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru “supported Namdhari Sikhs at the time of partition”.
According to his family, he believes in the ethos of non-violence, but often expressed grief that the same has disappeared from the existing political discourse.
In allegiance to non-violence, Bachan throughout his life only wore white clothes – kurta-pyjama, with a white turban.
On Sunday, special arrangements were made by the Election Commission to facilitate the centenarian’s visit to the polling station in Sant Garh.
“He was ferried to the polling station in a car and then, inside the booth, a wheelchair was arranged and the officials escorted him to the voting machine. It made him feel very special,” said his grandson, Gurcharan, who is also a professional carpenter.
As usual, clad in a white kurta-pyjama with a white turban, Bachan seemed to be unhappy, as he was late for voting.
“He has never been late to vote. On voting day, he would be the first to cast his vote. Until a few years ago, he used to ride a bicycle, but after a paralysis attack last year, his speech and body movement has been limited,” added Gurcharan.
But surprisingly, on Sunday at the polling booth, he could fairly identify the Congress symbol on the electronic voting machine.
“I have voted for the party with whom I identify myself,” said Bachan, despite his impaired speech.
The younger generation in his family support the Aam Aadmi Party, saying its councillors have undertaken many infrastructure-related initiatives, and believe the party should be given a chance to govern at the Centre.
(Sumit Saxena can be contacted at [email protected])