UAE: Indian expats book hundreds of tickets, fly home to cast election votes

Polls will be the largest ever in human history with over 960 million people eligible to vote

by

Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Wed 24 Apr 2024, 6:29 PM

Last updated: Wed 24 Apr 2024, 10:25 PM

With just two days to go for the second phase of the Indian national elections, thousands of Indian expats are believed to have travelled from the UAE back home to cast their votes. Local media have claimed that 30,000 people from the southern Indian state of Kerala have flown in from the GCC for voting.

This Indian national election will be the largest ever election in human history with over 960 million people eligible to vote.


Last week, a few politicians like Shafi Parambil and PMA Salam visited the UAE to rally support for themselves ahead of the second phase of India’s elections which takes place on April 26. Much of South India will vote during this phase.

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Social groups in the UAE, INCAS Kozhikode and KMCC Kozhikode bought hundreds of seats on three flights to Kerala last weekend. “We gave these tickets at a very discounted price to those who could not afford to otherwise fly home for the elections,” said Vijay Thottathil, acting President of INCAS.

“We wanted to make sure that people got a chance to exercise their right to vote. A total of 500 people traveled back on the three flights.”

Making their voice heard

Dubai-based entrepreneur, Noushad Thikodi, reached India last week. The expatriate is the election committee chairman of a political party in India and has been hard at work for the national elections that will take place in seven phases until June this year.

“As an Indian citizen, voting is a right that I would never compromise on,” he said, speaking to Khaleej Times from India. “Being a board member of a political party, this is one of the most important times for us and we have been campaigning relentlessly."

"The national elections determine the future of the country and I think anyone who can travel to India should do so to exercise their right to vote,” said Thikodi.

UAE resident Anura Mathai is preparing to travel to Kerala on Wednesday. “I have a clear political opinion and I want my voice heard," he said. "I believe that we Indians, even though we live in the GCC, we always have our finger on the pulse on our country. We are deeply embedded in the culture and the political thread of India, unlike a lot of other communities.”

According to Mathai, part of the reason why expat Indians are so politically active is because of the large number of residents in the UAE. “I know that over the last couple of weeks, several family and social gatherings were held where political discussions took centre-stage. Many party supporters and officials put forth their campaign promises and tried to sway residents to vote for them. This shows that expats are an important target audience for them.”

A Dubai-based travel agent said that they had received several group bookings for travel to India. “We have received one booking for 25 people for a social group in the country,” said Niyala Fathima from Alhind Business Center. “This particular group booked an Air Arabia flight from Ras Al Khaimah to Kerala because the RAK airport was fairly less affected due to the recent rain. We have smaller group bookings as well between 10 and 20 people who are all going to vote.”

First time voter

Hailing from the Indian state of Karnataka, Dubai resident Fazal traveled to India on Wednesday to vote. “This is the first time I am traveling to India to vote,” he said. “This year, I had some work in India so I decided to club that with the chance to vote. With India standing at a crossroads and some people saying this could be one of the most important elections for the country, I wanted to make sure that I did my part to determine the future of the country.”

Despite such a sizeable population living abroad, India does not have the facility for its citizens to vote from overseas. They must travel back to their constituencies to cast their ballot, thus making it impossible for many to do so. Several years ago, UAE-based businessman Dr Shamsheer Vayalil had filed a public interest litigation at India’s highest court requesting that non-residents Indians (NRI) be allowed to vote but was unsuccessful.

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