India's Shyam Saran Negi ready for 16th general election

India's first voter Shyam Saran Negi Image copyright Google
Image caption Shyam Saran Negi has voted in every single election since 1951-52

A 97-year-old man, who is among India's oldest voters, says he is getting ready to cast his ballot for a 16th time in a general election.

Shyam Saran Negi is a retired teacher in northern Himachal Pradesh state.

He has voted in every single election since 1951-52 - when India held its first general election after gaining independence from British rule.

Indians began voting in a nine-phase election on Monday. Voting will take five weeks, with results due on 16 May.

More than 814 million people are eligible to vote in a poll dominated by corruption and high inflation.

Country's first voter?

Mr Negi, who lives in the Himalayan village of Kalpa in Kinnaur district, will cast his vote on 7 May, the day voting will be held in all five seats of Himachal Pradesh.

The Election Commission of India has held him up as an example to others, and Google India recently put out a video on Mr Negi - #PledgeToVote tells the "true story of a man who never missed an opportunity to vote".

Since the video went up on 24 March, it has been viewed by nearly 1.7 million people around the world.

The short film begins with Mr Negi sipping tea at home, looking out at the spectacular snow covered peaks.

Then, he puts on his coat and cap, picks up his walking stick and begins his journey to the polling centre.

Walking upright and sure-footed on the snow-covered road which winds through apple orchards and pine woods, he arrives at the polling station to a grand welcome by fellow tribespeople before casting his vote.

The film also describes Mr Negi as the country's first voter - it says that independent India's first polling station was set up at Kalpa months before elections were held in the rest of India in February 1952.

"Before the roads got blocked in deep winter, we voted several months ahead of the rest of India on 25 October 1951," Mr Negi says.

"Since then I have voted in every general election and the state assembly elections. On 7 May, I will vote for a record 16th time [in a general election]," he adds.

The video has him saying: "I still remember that day all those years ago. It was snowing heavily as I walked to vote for the first time."

Mr Negi refuses to divulge which party has his support. "I will vote for a party which will sincerely attempt to change the country and provide a good government."

He is not particularly excited by the Nota (None of The Above) option the Election Commission has introduced for the first time in these elections. Nota gives the voter an option to reject all candidates.

"I am not in favour of Nota. Surely things are not so bad that there is nobody to vote for among the candidates," he told the BBC over the phone from his village.

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