Indian elections: UAE expats not keen on flying home to vote

Dubai - For the last general elections, KMCC had chartered a flight carrying voters to India.


Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Tue 23 Mar 2021, 12:18 AM

In comparison to previous years, only a small group of expatriates in the UAE have plans to travel to India to cast their votes in the upcoming Indian Assembly elections.

A total of 824 assembly constituencies go to polls in four states of Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and the Union Territory of Puducherry from March 27 to April 29.

Non-resident Indians (NRIs) can only vote in the constituency where they have their place of residence, as mentioned in the passport.

However, due to Covid-19 triggered restrictions, not many voters are travelling to India, heads of social groups and representatives of Indian political parties in the UAE told Khaleej Times.

Adv Ibrahim Khaleel, secretary and legal centre chairman of the Dubai chapter of Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre, said, “We opened up registration for interested voters last week. Those interested can register by giving a copy of their passport. However, I see that a lot of people are not that keen to travel to India due to the ongoing Covid-19 related restrictions. Also, there is no clarity if those travelling only to vote will be exempt from undergoing mandatory quarantine.”

For the last general elections, KMCC had chartered a flight carrying voters to India.

Ramesh Mannath, former president of Indian People’s Forum in Dubai, a group with associations to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said, “As part of our coordination efforts, we know there are 150 people who have expressed their interest to vote. They are purchasing the tickets themselves and travelling. A majority of our voters are travelling to constituencies in Kerala, such as Palakkad, Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur, and Malampuzha.”

However, Mannath also raised the issue of mandatory quarantine being a deterrent for interested voters.

Priyan Kannan, a Dubai-based coordinator for an interior design company says she plans to travel to Kerala to vote.

“I am leaving for Kerala on April 1. I had travelled to India for the last Panchayat elections as well. In Kerala, they have only seven days’ quarantine. I will complete the quarantine, vote, and then return to Dubai,” she said.

While many NRIs hoped to have postal voting facilities made available for this election cycle, the Chief Election Commissioner of India Sunil Aroras expressed hope the concept of remote voting will see ‘the light of day’ by the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. He said on Saturday, , that a pilot project could begin in the next two-three months.

The Election Commission had early this year started a research project for enabling remote voting in consultation with IIT Madras and technologists from IITs and other leading institutions.

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