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Oldest woman voter in Delhi gets inked at 111; over 70 centenarians exercise franchise

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Centenarian Kalitara Mandal, the oldest voter in Delhi, on Saturday cast her vote, becoming a cynosure of all eyes at a polling station in the capital city.

Dressed in a white saree and a cardigan sweater, the 111-year-old came to a polling station in CR Park in south Delhi along with her son, grandson and other family members. She flashed her inked wrinkled finger to photographers after voting.

"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," Mandal told PTI right after casting her vote.

She cast her vote in a wheelchair provided at the polling station, with her son Sukh Ranjan and grandson Suraj assisting her in entering the booth.

Born in undivided India in Barisal (now in Bangladesh) in 1908, 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 males and 64 females.

According to a senior official of the Delhi Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Office, "At least 66 centenarians voted at polling booths today and five had used postal ballots earlier. More updates are coming in about the overall polling figures."

They are treated "as VIPs" on the polling day, welcomed, picked up from home in a designated vehicle and then dropped home. At the polling station, an officer took selfie with them, officials said.

Mandal received the VIP treatment and attracted attention of fellow voters, many of whom had come to exercise their franchise for the fist time.

She has seen and participated in nearly all elections in India in the last century, and 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 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 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.

Kumar said, besides Mandal, there is another centenarian in the Greater Kailash constituency.

Mandal has lost all her teeth but definitely not her appetite for fish and the will to participate in the election.

Voting for the 70-member Delhi Assembly were held on Saturday with a turnout of over 61 per cent, recorded late evening, even as poll officials said the figure is likely to be updated.

Bachchan Singh, 111, the oldest voter in the city in the 2019 elections who used to reside in Tilak Nagar, died last December.

Zuibaida Khatun, 100, who cast her vote at Bulbule Khana School in Turkman Gate area in the Matia Mahal constituency, said she has never missed on voting in her life.

"I cannot walk without support. My grandson brought me to the booth," she said, holding onto a stick.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, February 08 2020. 22:50 IST