NRI's romp home for polls

Updated on May 03, 2004 02:08 PM IST

The NRIs, majority of whom are from UK and Canada, not only extend support to the poll candidates, but also bring in much-needed money for their campaigns.

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PTI | ByIndo-Asian News Service, Jalandhar

A number of non-resident Indians (NRIs) are returning to their roots in Punjab's hinterland to support candidates in the general election.

The NRIs, a majority of whom are from Britain, Canada and the US, do not only extend support to the poll candidates -- they bring in much-needed money for their campaigns.

"We have come here to support our candidate," acknowledged Amarjit Singh from London, who is back in his native Hoshiarpur district with his brothers to support Charanjit Singh Channi, a candidate for the Lok Sabha polls.

Channi was a member of the last Lok Sabha, but was denied a ticket by the Congress ticket this time. Left to fend for himself, Channi switched over to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to seek re election from the seat.

Amarjit Singh hit upon a novel idea to support Channi -- he organised a musical function with local artistes to entertain the public.

Channi admitted NRIs had played a role in past election campaigns, but their support was "more open this time".

Virtually every family in Punjab's Doaba belt, located between the rivers Sutlej and Beas, has someone settled abroad.

The area's prosperity in the past two decades is attributed to NRIs investing in property and other sectors in a big way.

"NRIs don't have much interest in elections except that it gives them a feeling of security to be known to an established politician in their country of birth," pointed out Hariqbal Singh, a resident of Hoshirapur.

A few NRIs, however, support political parties and leaders in the polls with future business interests in mind. Interests range from setting up residential colonies, hotels and amusement parks to industries like liquor bottling plants.

"Many of my NRI friends from Britain make sure that they are around when elections are held. Between 1996 and 2002, they had to come five times -- thrice for Lok Sabha elections and twice for assembly polls," pointed out Satnam Singh, a resident of Birmingham.

The NRIs also play generous hosts whenever winning politicians go to their adopted countries for visits.

They admit that in Western countries they collect funds from NRIs from Punjab. These funds are given to the candidate who they want to support.

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