Homing in: Over 20,000 non-resident Keralites to vote

KOZHIKODE: Over 20,000 non-resident Malayalis have registered to vote in the May 16 state polls in Kerala. This is likely the biggest-ever electoral push by non-resident Keralites (NRK).

The Election Commission said the 22,933 expats registered so far marks nearly 100% increase in the number of overseas electors in Kerala, compared to 2014’s general election. Then, the state had 12,585 overseas electors — 96.5% of the total overseas electorate of 13,039 across the country.

The final voters list may yet see an uptick, said EC offi -cials, as the fi nal list is yet to be released.

“There are 22,933 overseas electors in the state as on April 25. Male voters are the majority with 21,323 voters and 1,610 are women. The fi -nal fi gures may go up in the fi nal list,” an EC offi cial said.

The surge is in part being attributed to special voter registration drives in Gulf countries by expat organisations.

Also this time around, a dozen candidates flew down to the Gulf nations to campaign, seeking votes, urging expats to infl uence families back home to vote for them.

It remains to be seen how many voters actually fly home on poll day given the high travel costs, as a result of the uncertain economic situation in many Gulf countries following the crash in oil prices. Even in the Lok Sabha polls, the number of expats who fi nally cast their votes in India was very low.

Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC), IUML’s expat arm, plans to fl y down expats from May 14 onwards.

KMCC registered 1,200 voters in special registration drives over the last two months in the UAE.

“Over 250 expats have registered with us to fl y to Kerala for the elections. We’re arranging tickets for them on various fl ights. The fi rst Air India fl ight carrying expat voters will reach Karipur morning of May 14,” P K Anwar Naha, KMCC president in Dubai said.

IUML candidate in Kuttiady constituency, Parakkal Abdulla, himself an expatriate with businesses in Qatar, said about 1,500 NRKs from Qatar registered as voters. “I think many will come to vote,” he said.

Though government had granted NRIs voting rights in 2010, rules require them to be present in the constituency on the day of polling. This prevented most of the expats from enrolling on voters lists.

Advocate Haris Beeran, who appeared in Supreme Court on the case fi led by Shamsheer Vayalil seeking overseas voting rights for expats, said voting rights for expats would become meaningful only if NRKs were to be allowed to cast their votes from overseas through electronic postal ballots.