Azamgarh, a town in eastern Uttar Pradesh with a sizable Muslim population, has quite a few Western Union money transfer branches.
A group of men from Azamgarh, who work in Southwest Asia, going out for poll campaigning in the town. (Pankaj Jaiswal/HT photo)
A large number of Muslim men from the town and nearby villages have migrated to the Gulf countries in search of a better livelihood. They send money to their families through these outlets.
But, over the last two months, the number of transactions has seen a sharp drop. For, many have returned to the town on a vacation to campaign and vote in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
They are not affiliated to any political outfit, but swear allegiance to the Samajwadi Party (SP). They are now carrying out door-to-door drives for Mulayam Singh Yadav, the SP candidate from Azamgarh.
Bharatiya Janata Party's Ramakant Yadav is the sitting parliamentarian from the constituency.
"Campaigns are underway in full swing. We do not take money or reimbursements from the party at all. We use our own money and resources, like vehicles," says Mohammed Rehan.
The 30-year-old has been working at a paint factory in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for the last 12 years. At present, he earns 3,000 Riyals (Rs 48,000) a month. He has returned to his village Bakhran on an election vacation.
A senior overseas migrant worker Mohammed Amir, on an election vacation, sitting in his village house built by the money he earns in Riyadh. (Pankaj Jaiswal/HT photo)
Rehan is not alone. Mohammed Rashid, 42, Mohammed Danish Nazir, 34, Mohammed Zahid, 31, and Mohammed Amir, 45, are also conducting campaigns — both individually and in small groups— across the rural and urban belts of Azamgarh.
What's more, this is not the first time these men have returned to UP for campaigning. Most of them were here during the 2012 assembly elections and the 2009 Lok Sabha polls to root for the SP.
"But this time, the drive and sense of purpose is more intense because Netaji is contesting the Azamgarh seat. We have to lend a helping hand in his victory," says Mohammed Zahid.
Zahid has already campaigned for Havaldar Yadav, the SP nominee who got the first ticket to fight from the seat. He was due to leave India, but stayed back after Mulayam replaced Havaldar.
Tiflur Rehman, an executive committee member of the SP's Azamgarh district unit, said the trend was "very significant".
"You won't find even a single village which does not have people working abroad. All these people and their families have a kind of bonding among them. The earning member has the say (in deciding) the votes of his entire family," he adds.
However, these star campaigners of the SP are reluctant to accept the party membership.
"Getting officially affiliated to any political party might not suit us in the country where we work. It might create some problems pertaining to the rules and regulations (there)," says one Mohammed Amir.
When asked what drives them to campaigning, Amir says, "Kaum ke liye (for our community)."
"We work there not out of choice or charm, but as a compulsion. Who wants to live away from his family and village… We want things to improve here so that our children don't need to go away for a livelihood.
"We want Netaji to win the elections and then script a turnaround in this constituency," he adds.
But, why do they campaign the whole day instead of spending quality time with the family while they are in the country?
"Because we do not exist individually. We are part of a community and we need to work for the community's sake. We have to eventually return and live here. That's what we want to do.
"We must struggle for livelihood. Political participation brings political power," says Mohammed Danish Nazir, a resident of Rajapur Sikraur village who works in Kuwait.