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Senior citizens exercise their ‘birthright’
Voters defy poll boycott diktat

They say children show the way, but in Bokaro, a group of senior citizens showed how the Maoists’ poll boycott diktat should be defied when they went ahead to exercise their adult franchise on Thursday.

Call them watchdogs of democracy, voters — mostly septuagenarians — turned up in large numbers at the different polling booths. As many as three Assembly constituencies — Bermo, Gomia and portions of Dumri — of Bokaro district fall under Giridih parliamentary seat and these went to polls on Thursday, Day II of polling in Jharkhand. The rest of the district, that is Bokaro and Chandankyari, come under Dhanbad parliamentary seat and will go to polls on April 24.

A retired CCL employee of Budgadda in Uparghat area of Nawadih zone in Dumri Assembly constituency, Pardesi Ram (75), is one such person. He still believes in the power of the blank ink on his index finger.

Like Ram, there were also 70-year-old Kaili Devi of the same area, 68-year-old Mohammad Rafik Ansari of Gomia and Nageshwar Mahto (73) of Petarwar who went ahead to participate in the greatest festival of democracy.

Asked what pulled them to the booths, these senior citizens unanimously said voting was their birthright and they must exercise it.

Ram was at the booth, which was blanketed by CRPF men, at 8.45am sharp. He had to stand in queue for a few minutes before casting his vote.

Speaking to The Telegraph after exercising his franchise, Ram said coming early to the polling booth has been an old habit. “I got up early today (Thursday), took my bath and straightaway came to the booth,” he added.

When asked about the Maoist poll boycott order, the septuagenarian said, “I have never feared anyone. Then why do so at the fag end of my life?”

Ram’s walking abilities may have worsened over the years, but not his tact. So when asked whom he voted for, the retired CCL employee smartly said, “Let the election results be out and the one who wins is my candidate.”

Septuagenarian Kaili Devi may have a broken leg, but an unbreakable determination.

Proudly flaunting the blank ink on her nail, the 70-year-old homemaker said, “My one vote can defeat a candidate or make him victorious. So, why waste a vote? Though I am not well, but to keep democracy healthy and alive, it is very important to exercise your franchise,” she smiled.

Seventy-three-year-old Nageshwar Mahto, a former teacher in a Petarwar school, was equally vocal about his opinion.

“Maoists cannot rule us, as everyone knows that development will only come through free and fair elections,” said Mahto who has been on polling duty many a time during his heydays.

Echoing Mahto, Rafik Ansari (68) said the minority community in Gomia was aware of its voting rights.

“I have always supported elections. I have never shied away due to the rebel threat,” he added.