one of India’s most prized voters,Mahant Bharatdas Darshandas is the lone voter in the midst of Gujarat’s Gir forest, home to the Asiatic lion, for whom an entire election team sets up a polling booth every election.
Darshandas, in his early 60s, is the lone occupant of a hamlet called Banej in Gir forest. He has been casting his vote for the past elections, including the 2004 and 2009 parliamentary elections and the 2007 and 2012 state elections.
The Election Commission of India is making all arrangements to ensure that Darshandas, a temple priest, gets to cast his precious single vote. Darshandas lives in Banej Tirthdham, a pilgrimage spot inside the Gir sanctuary and looks after an ancient Shiva temple there.
With the Election Commission mandating that no voter should “ordinarily travel more than 2km to reach the booth”, every election time a polling team travels around 35 km to reach the hamlet of Banej inside the Gir forest, located in Junagadh district.
“Around four-five polling officials will travel to Banej on previous night carrying with them the polling material, including the Electronic Voting Machine. They will be accompanied by forest guards.
Banej falls under Una assembly segment of the Junagadh parliamentary constituency.
“A couple of forest guards always accompany the polling team. Till date there has been no incident of any wild animals attacking the polling team
Though in the normal course polling hours extend through the day, the election team at Banej would be able to wind up and return the minute Darshandas has pressed the EVM button and his finger is marked with the indelible ink.