At age 111, Kalitara Mandal may need help to move around but on Saturday while a significant number of Delhi voters neglected their democratic duty, the national capital’s oldest voter got herself wheeled into a voting booth in the morning to cast her vote.
Ms Mandal came to a polling station in Chittaranjan Park along with her son, grandson and other family members around 10:30 am, when barely 15 per cent of Delhi’s 1.47 crore eligible residents had voted. She flashed her inked finger to photographers after voting and urged people to take part in the election.
“I am happy to vote in this election. I don’t remember how many elections I have taken part in, but as a responsible citizen, we must vote. I urge other citizens to also come out and vote,” Ms Mandal told news agency PTI.
Born in undivided India in Barisal (now in Bangladesh) in 1908, Ms Mandal has seen the subcontinent go through turbulent phases many times, including two partitions, and lived “twice as a refugee” in India along with her family before finding a home in the national capital.
There are a total of 132 centenarian voters in Delhi – 68 men and 64 women.
Ms Mandal, who has seen and participated in nearly all elections in India in the last century, fondly recalled the time when ballot boxes were used to cast votes.
“Yes, I remember, they (polling officials) would take my thumb impression and then the ballot paper would be folded and put into boxes. I have voted with big machines (EVMs) too,” she said.
She is the eldest of four generations of Mandals who live in Chittaranjan or CR Park area, a famous Bengali enclave set up in the national capital after the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War that led to the creation of Bangladesh.
The assistant returning officer who escorted Ms Mandal from her home in K-Block, Harish Kumar, said, “I feel blessed to have been given this job.”
“In this age, she came out and voted, it should be an inspiration for all of us Indians, to use our democratic right of voting,” he said.
Delhi is voting today for its 70-member assembly with the choice of re-electing the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government or replacing it with the BJP or the Congress. However, as of 2 pm, the voter turnout was recorded at only 27.9 per cent. Votes will be counted on Tuesday.