NRIs fly in to lend festive colour to campaigning in Punjab bypolls
Ludhiana With bypolls just 10 days away, NRIs have flown in to Dakha, their hometown, to campaign for their favourite candidate and are lending a festive colour to the proceedings. Of the four seats going to the polls on October 21, NRIs, in their numbers, are visible in Dakha and Phagwara.
Almost 500 NRIs, from the US, the UK and Canada, have landed up in the country since the by-elections were announced; their number is expected to touch 1,500 as the state inches closer to the voting day. In the Dakha seat that comprises 110 villages, the connection with the NRIs is significant. Every 5th resident or 20% of the population here is settled abroad. Around 40,000 people are estimated to have migrated.
Door-to-door, live-streaming, and a bus for change
Nowadays, NRIs supporting Congress candidate Captain Sandeep Sandhu are participating in door-to-door canvassing with him. Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate Manpreet Singh Ayali has been live-streaming his public meetings, addressing NRIs in Calgary, Canada. Ayali has been telling the NRIs not to desert the party like the last time, when they voted for the then AAP candidate, HS Phoolka, “You were ditched later,” he tells those watching.
A New York-based businessman Karamjit Singh Dhaliwal has donated a bus to the Congress and this decorated vehicle is going from village to village, with huge and bold banners ‘Hun badlega Dakha’ (Now, Dakha will change).
Captain Sandeep’s brother Captain Navneet Sandhu has decked-up the bus. “The bus is based on the US model of campaigning to drive home the message among people,” claims Captain Navneet, adding that no one could miss ‘sighting this bus’ and the strong message that Dakha will now change. The bus also picks up party supporters on way to rallies and party events.
Former legislator and businessman Jassi Khangura, who has flown in from the UK, says the interest of the NRIs in these elections is unprecedented. “There are over 40,000 NRIs in Dakha; many of them are abroad, but their families are here. We love our culture. Along with the elections, we get to participate in weddings, festivities and the like. The time is apt for us to be here,” he says. He added that the NRIs have been pre-poning their annual visit to India to be with their choice of party at this crucial time.
Lok Insaaf Party president Simarjeet Singh Bains, who has fielded Sukhdev Singh, as party nominee, said, “This time, the response of NRIs has been huge. I am campaigning in Phagwara. The number of NRIs coming here to extend support is increasing with each passing day.” Earlier this year, Bains had led in Dakha in Parliamentary polls.