Flights with voters from West Asia pep up electoral spirit in Kerala

Expat organisations such as Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre is celebrating the ‘festival of democracy’ by sending expats on chartered flights to Kerala ahead of the general election scheduled for Friday.

Updated - April 24, 2024 08:37 am IST

Published - April 23, 2024 08:44 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

Even as the Kerala government’s effort to operate chartered flights between Gulf countries and Kerala at an affordable rate to bring expats home during festival seasons remains a pipe dream, expat organisations such as the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC) is celebrating the ‘festival of democracy’ by sending expats on chartered flights to Kerala ahead of the general election scheduled for Friday.

Already, a flight carrying 180 expats from Jeddah arrived at the Calicut International Airport in the first week of April, while another flight carrying 122 voters from Dubai landed here the other day on an Air Arabia flight.

Speaking to The Hindu, Ibrahim Khaleel, secretary, KMCC, Dubai, says two more flights from Abu Dhabi and Ras Al-Khaimah with 180 passengers each will land in Kerala in the next two days.

“We are hopeful of sending more expats from the UAE and Saudi Arabia before the elections. A charter flight will cost around two lakh UAE dirhams. However, the expats are being provided subsidised flight tickets. Other than chartered flights, a good number of expats have either reached Kerala on other scheduled airlines or are scheduled to arrive in the next two days,” says Mr. Khaleel.

The unexpected heavy rain that created flash floods in the Gulf, especially in the UAE, has upset the travel plans of the Indian diaspora ahead of the elections.

Voters from northern Kerala, especially Vadakara, Kozhikode, Malappuram and Wayanad, have been reaching the State on ‘vote flights’, says C.E. Chakkunny, president of the Malabar Development Council (MDC).

The trend is mainly limited to northern Kerala where spirited electoral contest is witnessed. Considering the number of expats from Kerala employed in West Asia, bringing even a small fraction of expats for elections by chartered and regular flights can influence the results, especially in constituencies such as Vadakara, which is witnessing a close contest between the Left Democratic Front and the United Democratic Front. It is estimated that Kozhikode district alone has close to 36,000 Pravasi votes.  

Further, the way the KMCC brings expats to Kerala to exercise their franchise during elections is worth emulating during festival seasons, which used to witness exorbitant fares with airlines jacking up fares, says Mr. Chakkunny.

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