SIVAGANGA: He was there during the fag end of the British rule; he was there when a new India was born; he has seen many ups and downs, both political and social, in the last century. But they all helped fortify his belief in democracy.
Meet 105-year-old MAM Palaniyappa Chettiar, arguably, the oldest voter in the country. A resident of Rayavaram village of Arimalam block of Thirumayam Assembly segment in Pudukottai district that falls under Sivaganga Parliamentary constituency, he has never missed an election held after independence.
Ask him about elections and Palaniyappa, who is fondly called as ‘Thatha’ or ‘Aiya’, would say, “Casting vote is my right. Elections would help develop the area, district, State and the nation.” He urged youngsters to cast their votes without fail and to elect candidates judiciously. Born on December 19, 1914, Palaniyappa has been residing in the same locality over the years.
After independence, at least 15 Lok Sabha and 15 Assembly elections were held. The oldest voter, who is getting ready to cast vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections on April 18, said that it was not at all difficult for him to handle the electronic voting machine.K Arunachalam (60), the grandson of Palaniyappa, said that Aiya was an inspiration for the family as well as for the people in the locality. “If he is so determined to cast vote at 105 years of age, why can’t we?,” he asked.
Tension-free life and regular walking are the secret behind the oldest-voter’s health. “Everyday, he goes for morning walk and is very keen on maintaining his diet,” Arunachalam said, adding that Aiya always carry out his work on his own.
Though a century has passed since his birth, Palaniyappa Chettiar is young at heart and a lover of cricket. He is an ardent fan of Indian wicket keeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. “I am a follower of Chennai Super Kings team in Indian Premier League,” said Palaniappa Chettiar who watches IPL matches every day before going to bed.