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Gulf stream heads to Kerala as tickets fly

Gulf stream heads to Kerala as tickets fly
Not waiting for the Election Commission's decision on online voting for NRIs, hundreds of Malayalees working in the Gulf have been flocking home to participate in the largest democratic carnival in the world.

Non Resident Keralites (NRKs) form the largest chunk of overseas Indian voters who have enrolled in the voters list. Of the total two million Malayalees in the Gulf, 12,000 NRKs have enrolled in the voters list so far.

Indications are that nearly 11,000 of these may cast their vote in the home state on April 10; over 3,000 Gulf Malayalees have already landed in the state in the last few weeks to join the campaigns of their candidates, sources said. A major chunk of these NRIs is from the politically-sensitive northern districts.

"I was a Congress worker earlier. I cannot sit peacefully when an election is taking place here. I came here two weeks ago to work for the party candidate," said Prem Kumar, an accountant in Dubai.

Gulf-based Malayalee organisations are engaged in election campaigning in their host countries too, and are mobilising people to return home to vote. They are also asking their members to persuade their relatives back home to vote for the candidate of their (organisation's) choice.

"Hundreds of our members have gone to Kerala to participate in the campaign," said Ebraham Elettil, general secretary of Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC)'s UAE chapter. KMCC is a leading Malayalee organisation in the Gulf.

These organisations are also busy arranging group tickets for their members who wish to return home to vote. Last year, the KMCC UAE chapter had even operated special flights. This time though, KMCC is sticking to group tickets as they are economical than chartered flights. Aviation sources are expecting 25 to 30 special flights carrying voters from the Gulf to land in Kerala's airports.

Organisers claim that flight bills are footed by voters and that they merely act as facilitators. Operating special flights or providing tickets to bear the cost of voters is a serious violation of the moral election code of conduct. The Election Commission can initiate action against erring parties if it receives a complaint.

"Nobody paid for my ticket. I have come my own," said Thomas Mathew, a computer engineer in Muscat. "I believe that casting my vote is a fundamental duty of every citizen. Everyone should join hands to keep the fine fabric of democracy intact."