On a cloudy Saturday morning, centenarian Chaudhary Ranmal Singh, a noted politician and freedom fighter, slowly dressed up in a thick white kurta pyjama, a sleeveless jacket and a woollen cap. In 2023 he stepped out from his village house in Kathrathal, 9 kilometres away from the Sikar district of Rajasthan, just twice. The first outing was on November 19, on the occasion of his 100th birthday, when he was felicitated by Rural Girls Education Institute and the second time was on November 25, the polling day for the assembly elections in Rajasthan. His excitement to cast his vote could be sensed by his eagerness as he would continuously keep glancing at the wall clock since 7 AM, the official time for the polling lines to open.
Singh's grandson, accompanied by other family members, drove him to the polling station inside the Government Art College in a car, merely 200 meters from his residence. Singh is one of those disciplined voters who has been regularly voting since the first elections which took place in 1952, after India's independence.
"I have been waiting for this important ritual to happen for the last five years. I believe any sort of election is an integral part of democracy. Voting day is no less than any festival as we can exercise our basic right - the right to vote. The long queues outside booths give me a sense of hope", Singh, a former Congress leader told Outlook.
Talking about the political rhetoric and changing dimensions in the election campaign, Singh who was also an MLA from Sikar from the Indian National Congress in 1977, told Outlook, "In our times election campaigns used to be an austere affair. The candidates would focus more on personal relationships and door-to-door campaigns. One would hardly get to hear speeches of politicians disturbing communal harmony."
Singh who has also served as a Pradhan for 15 years and Sarpanch for four decades now remains confined to his ancestral home. But he continues to keep alive his two passions -- politics and farming. "My father keeps himself updated about the local and national politics, mostly focussing on the rural issues. He would never miss reading at least two newspapers a day but for the last few years, as his eyesight became weaker, he kept mostly switching tv news channels and placed his ear close to the speaker", added Singh's son, Col Ved Prakash.
Singh was one of the,18,462 voters who were older than 100 years and were eligible to vote as per the Election Commission Of India. Rajasthan has a total of 5.25 crore voters, including 2.73 crore males, 2.51 crore females and 604 transgender people. Around 11.8 lakh are above 80 and 21.9 lakh are first-time voters, as per the data shared by the ECI. Moreover, 29,643 newlyweds were registered through special camps.
Rajasthan recorded 68.24 per cent voter turnout till 5 pm in the state Assembly polls which are underway on Saturday, the Election Commission informed.