Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Wary yet hopeful, Chandigarh’s centenarians set to vote again

Come May, the City Beautiful will launch itself head-first into the election excitement. While the election commission has been conducting extensive drives to enlist first-time voters, a small group of voters aged 100 years plus bear testimony to the popular belief ‘age is just a number.’

Often referred to as the city of retirees, Chandigarh has shown a 36 per cent increase in its senior citizen voter count this year. However, some discrepancies emerged in the election department data regarding the exact number of centenarians who possess voter cards. The initial records showed over 50 such people but names of only five persons could be verified.

During an interaction with three such persons, it was heartening to see them take pride in producing their voter cards. Besides their age, another common thread ties them together: Their views on the rising intolerance in the country and disillusionment with Chandigarh’s rising traffic, crime and depleting greenery and cleanliness.

‘Nationalism was never a contentious issue’

Hardyal Singh used to run an automobile workshop in Darjeeling before moving to Sector 15-C, Chandigarh, where he now resides with his wife and daughter. Listed as a 100-year-old in the election department’s electoral rolls, he insists he’s only 96 and has been a consistent voter.

For him, nationalism and intolerance, which used to be just words in the dictionary, seem to hold a lot of weight now. “Earlier, these weren’t issues of contention before elections.”

Having got his address changed after he moved back from West Bengal, he says he voted for Gul Panag in the last elections simply because she was a Sikh. This time, however, he’s inclined towards Navjot Kaur as he believes she will follow in her husband’s footsteps of doing good work.

Aggrieved by the growing traffic and parking woes in Chandigarh, he feels current MP Kirron Kher hasn’t done much for the city. “I love to go for my walk every morning and evening and I feel the northern sectors are not as clean as they used to be. Why don’t they get rid of the mosquitoes? Look at our poor ranking in the latest survey,” he says, holding on to his walking stick.

‘Forever indebted to Indira Gandhi’

Parkash Devi, all of 104, takes some time to open up about her political affiliations. But as she does, you realise, she has a rather sharp memory as she recalls how she didn’t vote in 2014 due to a surgery, but went to a government school to vote in 2009.

“Muddataan hogiyan, hun yaad ni kinu kita (It’s been ages, can’t recall who I voted for),” she says. Her son Inderjeet Thakur and his wife reveal her love for Congress.

Devi’s loyalty has been towards Indira Gandhi since the late Prime Minister introduced the pension scheme for which she says she is ‘forever indebted.’ Reluctant to come out of her room at her residence here, she said only if her health permits she’ll vote this time, pointing towards her voter card.

‘Modi ji kuchh to karenge’

In a two-bedroom house shanty, Sumera Devi at 101, looks frail as she narrates her recent encounter with tuberculosis. Devi continues to talk about the bleeding in her throat and paucity of resources, until her great grand-daughter-in-law Sunita brings her voter card for Devi to recall it is election time.

Devi remembers she has been voting for many years now and feels those who bring employment are the true karta dhartas (doers). “Modiji kuchh to karenge… (Modi will do something)” she says, adding that her son will accompany her to the poll booth.

First Published:
Mar 15, 2019 16:28 IST

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