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NRIs return home, line up for love of vote

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Anwar Naha, 53, employed in the UAE as an expatriate, cast his vote at a polling booth under Ponnani Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala’s Malappuram on Friday.

Naha mentioned that a total of five chartered flights had been organized solely from the UAE for this election, coordinated by the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC) associated with the IUML. Additionally, numerous expatriates had returned home via bulk bookings on regular flights.

As 13 states went to polls in the second phase of Lok Sabha elections on Friday, many NRIs made it a point to fly down to cast their vote.

While a significant number traveled to the coastal states of Kerala and Karnataka, three NRIs returned home to exercise their voting rights in Meerut in the north. Manav Tyagi (35) is originally from New Zealand, Gaurav Gulati (37), an IT professional, returned from Germany, and Harsh Vardhan Agarwal (31) traveled from the US.

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Tyagi, a resident of Rasna village in UP’s Meerut district, said, “I have been living in New Zealand for 10 years. I went there to pursue my higher studies in 2014 and got a job there. I even qualified for citizenship, but I did not take it because I did not want to let go of my right to vote in India. In New Zealand, they still conduct elections on ballots, but India is doing a commendable job by conducting electronic polls with such a huge population.”

In Kerala, expats taking chartered flights back home to cast vote became the talk of the town. Hassan Chalil, state president of Dubai KMCC, who cast his vote in Nadapuram under Vadakara LS constituency, said that expat voters had come in two chartered ‘vote flights’ to Vadakara constituency alone. They booked flights to come home for voting from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other Gulf countries, Chalil said.According to TOI sources, around 12 ‘vote flights’ would have arrived in Kerala ahead of the elections. “We were able to provide tickets to voters at a rate of AED 349 through negotiations with airline companies,” Chalil, who had been working in the UAE for 35 years in the restaurant sector, said.

Mangaluru saw many NRIs take leave for a few days to return home to vote. Christopher Roshan Lobo, a resident of Kulshekar near Mangaluru, said he decided to return home for the weekend rather than stay back in Bahrain where he is employed.

“I flew into Mangaluru on Thursday evening and will return on Saturday,” Lobo said, adding that he was among many who arrived at the polling station before it opened at 7am on Friday.

Gokuldas Bhat, from Belthangady who owns and runs a transport company in Kuwait, gave 45 of his employees two days leave to return and vote, while Abdulla Madumoole from Abu Dhabi posted on X: “Spent almost 1 lakh rupees for this one mark — in an effort to bring back sanity, civility, and normalcy to our great nation.”

Harsha DM and his wife Spoorthi CS, who hail from Bengaluru, landed in the city from Sydney on Thursday. Harsha voted at a polling station in Dasarahalli near Hebbal, while Spoorthi exercised her voting franchise at a booth in Hebbal, both in the Bangalore North Lok Sabha constituency.

(With TOI inputs)

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