x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Would-be voters stuck in the UAE

Financial constraints forced some Indian nationals to stay in the Emirates while their countrymen voted in their homeland.

DUBAI // Even as more than 2,000 enthusiastic voters travelled to India's Kerala state from the Emirates to vote in assembly elections, many more blue-collar workers were restricted to watching events unfold on television.

"I was very keen to vote in the elections, but my economic situation prevented me from going," said Mohammed Ghani, a delivery man for a company in Dubai.

"I had considered taking a loan for my flight tickets," he said. "But that would have been very difficult to repay. I have always voted in the elections since I turned 18, and I am very disappointed I couldn't go this time."

Mr Ghani has been keeping himself updated on election news by watching it on television. "I have been keenly watching to what's happening back home, and have been discussing the outcome with friends," said the 41-year-old.

"I wasn't able to get time off to travel", said Abu Backer, a foreman. "This is the first time NRIs [non-resident Indians] have been given the right to vote, and I am disappointed that I couldn't go. My family was anticipating my visit and are upset I couldn't make it."

The 2011 state elections, which took place yesterday, are considered a milestone as overseas Indians mark their debut as voters. Kerala has the highest literacy rate in India and constitutes a politically aware voting community.

"Many people are eager to have a say in the political process," said NP Ramachandran, the general secretary of the Overseas Indian Cultural Congress in the UAE.

"Student unions are very popular, and people get initiated into the political scenario as early as in their school days," he said.