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UAE: Indian expatriates purchase hundreds of tickets and return home to vote

With just two days remaining until the second phase of India's national elections, a significant number of Indian expatriates residing in the UAE have made the journey back to their home country to exercise their voting rights. Reports suggest that thousands of expats, particularly from the southern Indian state of Kerala, have flown in from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to participate in the electoral process.

This upcoming Indian national election is anticipated to be the largest in human history, with an astonishing 960 million eligible voters. Ahead of the second phase scheduled for April 26, several politicians, including Shafi Parambil and PMA Salam, have visited the UAE to rally support for their respective campaigns. This phase of the elections encompasses much of South India, prompting heightened political activity and mobilization efforts among expatriate communities in the UAE.

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Social groups in the UAE, such as INCAS Kozhikode and KMCC Kozhikode, have played a pivotal role in facilitating the return of expat voters by organizing group bookings on flights to Kerala. According to Vijay Thottathil, acting President of INCAS, these groups have subsidized ticket costs to ensure accessibility for those who may have otherwise been unable to afford the journey. Approximately 500 individuals were able to travel back home for the elections through these initiatives.

Dubai-based entrepreneur Noushad Thikodi emphasized the significance of voting as a fundamental right and civic duty, particularly for Indian citizens residing abroad. Thikodi, who serves as the election committee chairman of a political party in India, underscored the importance of expatriate participation in shaping the country's future through the electoral process.

Similarly, UAE resident Anura Mathai highlighted the deep-rooted connection and engagement that expatriate Indians maintain with their homeland's political landscape. He emphasized the role of expats as an influential demographic in Indian politics and attributed their active involvement to a strong sense of cultural and political identity.

Despite logistical challenges and the absence of provisions for overseas voting, expatriate Indians continue to demonstrate their commitment to participating in the democratic process. Travel agents in the UAE have reported a surge in group bookings for travel to India, with individuals like Fazal, a Dubai resident from Karnataka, seizing the opportunity to vote in person for the first time.

While the inability to vote from overseas remains a significant hurdle for many expatriates, efforts to advocate for absentee voting rights, led by individuals like UAE-based businessman Dr. Shamsheer Vayalil, persist. As expatriate Indians mobilize to exercise their voting rights, their participation underscores the enduring connection and engagement of the diaspora with the political affairs of their homeland.

April 25, 2024 10:53 a.m. 3508

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