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A first-of-its-kind museum that chronicles the country's historical electoral journey with artefacts, documents, photographs and film exhibits drawn from rare archives was thrown open to the public here today.
Christened 'A Journey through Elections', the museum is located on the first floor of the iconic old St Stephen's College Building, which currently houses the office of the Delhi State Election Commission at Kashmere Gate.
Endowed with 200-odd exhibits with 100-120 rare photographs, drawn from several archives, the museum was inaugurated by Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi, who termed it as the "journey of the electoral democratic process of India".
"It is a noble initiative to understand the electoral machinery of India from its inception. In the Gandhi section, one can see how, Mahatma Gandhi propagated his view of enfranchisement in South Africa and then in India.
"It also shown us how poor people can be very powerful in a democracy. The place has been transformed and I hope the place would soon be crowded with visitors," Zaidi said.
The exhibits include artefacts like the metal ballot box used in the first general elections in 1952, the one used in 1996, rare black and white images of elections period running through several decades after Independence, and samples of old election symbols.
Rare documents drawn from Delhi Archives, records of Election Commission of India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and Photo Division and Films Division archives, have also been displayed.
Visitors can also see a rare Films Division documentary -- "The Great Experiment" -- chronicling the events during the historic first general elections of India.
Chief Electoral Officer of Delhi Chandra Bhushan Kumar called it a "celebration of our electoral legacy".
"The museum is first-of-its-kind in the country. Our primary target is school children, whom we want to feel excited and enthused about the election and the concept of universal election franchise. We have already invited few schools in our vicinity," he said.
Among the rare pre-Independence era exhibits are the electoral roll of 1923, correspondences between police and poll officials in 1934 elections, and Gandhi's visit to St Stephen's College in 1915.
The office of the Delhi State Election Commission is currently situated in the old building which earlier used to house the St Stephen's College from late 19th century till 1940s. The building was designed by Samuel Swinton Jacob in Indian-Islamic architecture with European Neo-Classical and Gothic Revival styles.
The museum has a separate section on the life of Gandhi and his struggle for Independence.
A special voter's pledge section has also been set up where visitors can take the pledge and then take a selfie, Kumar said.
The museum also has among its exhibits the "indelible ink" that has become the veritable symbol of electoral democracy in the country.
"Mysore Paints and Varnish Ltd has been manufacturing the ink for India since 1962 and it has also been supplied to about 25 countries abroad," Kumar said.
The entry to the museum is free but visitors would need to book their visit online.
"We have made a special website for it which would be made operational soon. People can book it from there," he said.
Incidentally, the old St Stephen's Building was declared a heritage building by the Delhi government few years ago. The building's facade currently stands obscured due to some civil constructions in the campus in the 90s.
"Any heritage building of the country should be preserved. I am sure the CEO has take note of the issues raised (about its being eclipsed by a modern building in front of its porch) and will deal with it," Zaidi said.
Kumar said, "We will address all issues step by step. First, our challenge is to make this heritage building livable, to bring people to it. Next, we will take up other issues.