At the age of 111 years, Bangladesh-born woman Kalitara Mandal, the oldest voter of Delhi, exercised her franchise on Saturday along with her family in the elections to the 70 Delhi Assembly seats. Mandal, a 1908 born Bengali speaking woman, cast her vote at South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) Primary School at Chittaranjan Park in Greater Kailash Assembly constituency.
She was provided a special vehicle at her Chittaranjan Park residence, a famous Bengali enclave set up in the national capital after the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War that led to the creation of Bangladesh, to visit the polling booth where a wheelchair was arranged for her.
A senior poll official said the Mandal family had applied for postal ballot facility for her at home, but the duration for that was over. Born in undivided India, 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.
She was born in Barisal (now in Bangladesh) three years after the 1905 Bengal partition. The centenarian, who has seen and participated in nearly all elections in India, is the eldest of four generations of Mandals who live in Chittaranjan Park. As many as 132 centenarian voters -- 68 men and 64 women -- are eligible to exercise their franchise in the February 8 election and they will be treated as 'VIPs' on polling day, officials said.
Bachchan Singh, 111, the oldest voter in the city in the 2019 elections who used to reside in Tilak Nagar, died last December. Mandal along with her husband and children migrated to India from then East Pakistan a few years before the 1971 war to seek shelter after communal disturbance and became refugees along with some others in Andhra Pradesh.
After the situation became normal, the family went back. But they returned after the 1971 war and took refuge at a place in Madhya Pradesh, which now comes under Chhattisgarh. Mandal's husband Jnanendra died when they lived in MP. In the early 80s, her two sons came to Delhi to do odd jobs for a living. After a few years, the family settled in Chittaranjan Park.
Of Mandal's seven children -- four sons and three daughters -- five have passed away. While Sukh Ranjan is her only remaining son, Mandal has one surviving daughter who lives in Bangladesh and had recently visited the family here.