NRI voters coming by the planeloads
Sudheer KP, a civil engineer in Oman, booked his ticket to India early to make sure he gets there in time to vote in the Lok Sabha polls. “This election is crucial in many ways. I don’t want to miss it,” he says.india Updated: Mar 30, 2014 02:03 IST
Sudheer KP, a civil engineer in Oman, booked his ticket to India early to make sure he gets there in time to vote in the Lok Sabha polls. “This election is crucial in many ways. I don’t want to miss it,” he says.
Sudheer is one of the nearly 12,000 NRIs registered to vote this time. The number is small considering there are over 1 crore NRIs, but many are still coming to India to take part in the world’s largest election exercise.
Sharad Amin, an engineer in Texas, never went back for an election after he left India in 1973. He is going this time even though he doesn’t have a vote, “Just to have some fun”.
Amin says he last met Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in 2011. When Amin brought up the 2014 elections, Modi replied in Gujarati: “we will have some fun”.
It’s not going to be all fun and games though. They will be raising funds, volunteering for campaigns and will be cold-calling undecided voters.
Nachiket Joshi, head of a London recruitment company, plans to fly to Ahmedabad first to cast his vote and then go to Varanasi where he will campaign for the BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi.
“I have seen the working style of Modi and am greatly impressed by his direct and systematic approach,” says Joshi, adding “a large number of people from UK” are already campaigning in India.
And more are coming from all over the world.
The Kerala Muslim Culture Centre has chartered a full Air India flight to bring 160 voters from Dubai to vote in Kozhikode, Kerala, on April 7. The center has subsidised the fare.
“Voters should exercise their right to choose their leaders who shape their country’s destiny,” says KMCC head KM Anwar Naha.
Of the 11,844 NRI voters, 11,488 are from Kerala, 138 from Punjab and 122 from Tamil Nadu.
Parties want their vote, of course, and, equally importantly, their donations and expertise, wooing them through their overseas wings — Overseas friends of BJP (OFBJP) and the Indian Overseas Congress.
The OFBJP opened a chapter in Hong Kong last month and held special sessions in Japan and Mauritius apart from stepping up its activities in the US.
AAP, through its online platform, raised Rs. 55 lakh in just a day, a lot of it came from abroad. The US chapter of OFBJP has said it wants to raise $ 250,000.
The NRIs are contributing heavily to this year’s elections, they now feel that India should do more to include them and are demanding they be allowed to vote at the country’s missions abroad.
“Unlike in the US most of the NRIs in the Gulf are ordinary workers. So as a logical next step, the government should allow voting in Indian embassies in Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” says S Iruddayarajan, an expert on migration and a consultant to the overseas Indian affairs ministry.