Kuttanad native Govinda Pillai has been suffering from age-related ailments for the last decade or so. At 110, the former firewood cutter belonging to the Aelimadathil house cannot hear, cannot walk and seldom steps out of his house. But come April 23, Govinda Pillai will be present at the polling booth in Alappuzha to exercise his franchise in the world’s biggest election, just like over 2,000 other centenarians in Kerala who will get out and cast their vote.
“My father has been a long-time supporter of the Congress party. He has voted in every election as far as I can remember. Now, he can barely walk but he insists that he will cast his vote this election. So we will arrange a car and wheelchair and take him to the booth on April 23,” the 110-year-old’s son Purushothama Pillai tells TNM.
While Govinda Pillai votes in the southern district of Alappuzha, up north in Kasaragode, 101-year-old KN Sham Bhat will exercise his franchise in Kumbala panchayat, Manjeshwaram. The retired temple priest has been supporting the Bharatiya Janata Party for the last two decades, ever since he moved to Kerala from Mangaluru.
“Depending on his health, we will take him to the Narayanamangalam ALP school, which is our booth, so that he can cast his vote. His mind is still very sharp and he knows all the party symbols,” Sham Bhat’s relative tells TNM. The 101 year-old speaks several languages and enjoys cricket commentary, his kin adds.
In the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram, where Shashi Tharoor (INC), C Divakaran (CPI(M) and Kummanam Rajasekharan (NDA) will battle it out this election, 103-year-old TK Janardhanan, a resident of Kolathur, will play his part in the democratic process. A retired tea seller and shopkeeper, Janardhanan, who had worked for long in Tamil Nadu, was a big supporter of MGR and AIADMK. He later moved to Kerala and placed his faith in the Communist party, his son says.
“My father is very sure that he wants to vote for the Communist party. He has always been a fan,” Janardhanan’s son Radhakrishnan tells TNM. According to his son, Janardhanan is an enthusiastic participant and has cast his vote in all elections in the recent past.
“He gets ready and leaves early in the morning and waits at the booth. Sometimes he is the first to arrive. The booth officials greet him and take him inside so he can cast his vote,” Radhakrishnan adds.
According to the latest data published in March 2019 by the Election Commission, Kerala has an impressive 2,000 plus centenarian voters with about 700 men and 1,400 women on the list. This group, however, comprises less than 1% of the state’s voter base.
Nonetheless, instructions have been issued by Chief Electoral Officer Teeka Ram Meena to the 24,970 polling booths in the state to fix ramps so that aged voters and those with disabilities will have easy access. Drinking water will also be supplied in all stations at all times.
The relatives of these centenarian voters say that booth officials have been helpful in the past too and have given priority to aged voters, so as to not make them wait in queues to cast their vote.