Emmanuel Macron’s win in France’s landmark presidential election has spread cheer 7,876 km away in Indian town Yanam, home to a small community of Telugu-speaking French citizens who voted for him.
At least 51 votes landed in favour of Macron from Yaman, a vibrant town situated about 30 km from Kakinada town in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.
Yaman’s French citizens acknowledged they played a marginal role in pro-European centrist Macron’s win over far-right opponent Marine Le Pen, but that did not detract from their happiness.
“Macron had promised to enhance pension for overseas French nationals and renew their citizenship, besides payment of unemployment allowance to the youth and opening up employment opportunities for immigrants. On the other hand, Le Pen is like US President Donald Trump, who threatened to take away jobs of the immigrants,” Yanam resident Sadanala Babu, a French national by birth, told HT on Monday.
Yanam, a picturesque enclave of Puducherry but geographically a part of Andhra Pradesh, has more than 100 families with French nationality. Along with other French colonies of Puducherry, Karaikal and Mahe, Yanam became free through a referendum on November 1, 1954 and the transfer of power was done in August 1962.
Many members of these families had worked for the French government in the past, retired and settled in different parts of France, but a few of their descendants stayed put in Yanam. These Yanam residents continue to vote in the French presidential elections every five years.
“In the first phase of elections held on April 23, some of us went to the polling booth set up at Puducherry by Consulate General of France. But in the second phase held on Sunday, most of us used the facility of procurement votes (proxy votes), authorising the consulate authorities to vote on our behalf. An official from the French consulate came here in March and collected procurement votes from us,” Babu said.
Babu’s father, Sadhanala Satynarayana, had worked as a Brigadier in the French army in Yanam. After retiring, Satyanarayana settled down in Paris. After his death, his wife Anasuya (79) continues to stay in France, drawing a pension of 800 Euros (around Rs 56,000) a month.
According to Babu, how Yanam residents voted is no big secret. “The voting is very open and all of us voted for Macron.”
Babu, who sent his son for studies in France and also to take care of his mother, said he had several relatives in France who were in regular touch with their families here. “Despite their stay in France for several decades, they still follow the Telugu tradition.”
Another French national, Dowluri Mruthyunjaya Rao, said he had enrolled as voter in France and had not exercised his vote in Yanam. “I could have authorised my relatives to vote on my behalf, but did not use the option. But I know they all voted for Macron,” said Rao, whose father Chandra Rao had worked as a survey officer in Public Works Department (PWD) in the erstwhile French government in Yanam.
“I got the French citizenship because I was registered in Yanam municipality. Now, I have settled in France along with my family and my children are also working in various parts of France,” said Rao, who retired from an automobile company in Bretagne in France.
Rao came came to Yanam for a relative’s wedding in December and will return to France next month.