Indian election officials with polling materials walk to board a country boat to reach a polling center in a remote river island in the River Brahmaputra in Kamrup district, west of Gauhati, Assam, India, April 22, 2019.
Indian election officials with polling materials walk to board a country boat to reach a polling center in a remote river island in the River Brahmaputra in Kamrup district, west of Gauhati, Assam, India, April 22, 2019.

Indian officials traveled nearly 70 km (45 miles) through lion-infested jungle this week to ensure a 69-year-old holy man got his change to take part in the world's biggest democratic exercise.

A four-member team of election officials, accompanied by a policeman, set up a special polling station deep in the Gir wildlife sanctuary in Gujarat state so a sole voter - Bharatdas Darshandas - could vote in the general election.

A priest who has lived at his remote forest temple for two decades, Darshandas has not missed an election since 2002, and cast his vote on Tuesday by walking nearly a kilometer to the special polling station.

Gir wildlife sanctuary, India

Darshandas looks after a Shiva Temple in the 350-square-kilometer (850-square-mile) wildlife sanctuary, home to some 600 of the last remaining Asiatic lions.

India has more than 900 million eligible voters who can cast their ballots at 1 million polling stations.

Officials often have to travel to remote regions over days to get to voters. But an arduous trip for just one voter is not so common.

FILE - Hindu priest Bharatdas Darshandas talks on
FILE - Hindu priest Bharatdas Darshandas talks on his mobile phone at a private news channel studio in Rajkot, India, March 2, 2009

"The fact that the government is taking so much effort to ensure the casting of one vote speaks to the importance of each and every vote," Darshandas told Reuters partner ANI in an interview.

"Just the way voting is 100 percent in Banej, there should be 100 percent voting everywhere," Darshandas said, referring to the place he lives.

Election officials sit next to election materials to be distributed to polling stations at a distribution center, ahead of the third phase of general elections in Kochi, India, April 22, 2019.
Voting Begins in Third Phase of India's Mammoth General Election
Voting began in the third and largest phase of India's staggered general election on Tuesday, including in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat and southern Kerala, where opposition Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi is contesting.In all, 188 million voters are eligible to cast ballots in 117 constituencies during the day - across 15 states and federally-controlled territories.The general election, which has seven phases, began on April 11 and will end on May 19.

The staggered general election has seven phases. It began on April 11 and will end on May 19. Votes will be counted on May 23.

Sourabh Pardhi, an election official from the area, said the Election Commission had worked hard to ensure everyone got a chance to vote.

"We want to make sure that no voter is left behind," he told ANI.

Child Marriage