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Stuck in lockdown, many NRKs vote after decades

Pandemic forced nearly 8.7 lakh expats to return in past 12-15 months

Published: 08th April 2021 04:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th April 2021 04:36 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI: The assembly elections on Tuesday was the first time that Annie Varghese —  a Non-Resident Keralite (NRK) — voted in her home state. After marriage in 1979, Annie left for Qatar with her husband. Since then, she has not had a chance to vote in an election in Kerala.  “We were in Kerala during elections only once, in 1991. But we couldn’t renew our voter ID cards and hence could not vote then,” Annie, 64, told TNIE.

Over the past 12 to 15 months, around 8.7 lakh NRKs have returned to Kerala from the Gulf, most of them after losing their jobs. This meant many of them got a chance to vote in Kerala for the first time. A significant number also voted for the first time after several years, by default. Sibichan Abraham, a native of Cheruthoni, who returned from Saudi Arabia last year, voted in Idukki constituency.

“The last time I voted in a Kerala assembly election was in 2001,” said Sibichan, who returned after the construction company he was working for reduced staff following the Covid-induced slowdown.“It’s not that I’m not interested in elections. It’s just that I would be in Saudi whenever polls are held here,” he said.

Sibichan said his company has now asked if he is interested to return as they have started hiring again. If he goes back to Saudi, he said he does not know when he would be able to participate in the election process again in Kerala.

Another NRK who got a chance to vote this election by default is Alexander J Kuriakose. Working in a freight forwarding company in Muscat for the past 10 to 15 years, he said the last assembly elections he voted in Kerala was in 2006. A native of Mundakayam, he cast his vote in the Poonjar constituency this time. His father J A Chacko, a Kerala Congress leader, was a three-time MLA from Kottayam district’s Akalakunnam constituency in 1965, 1967 and 1970. 

Annie Varghese, whose husband -- KC Varghese -- is the brother of former minister KC Joseph, said she returned to Kerala last year. The lockdown forced her to stay back. She could not return to Qatar to renew her visa, which expired last May.

“My vote is in the Thrikkakara constituency. For the first time, I cast my vote,” she said. While her husband passed away in May 2006, she said her three daughters -- two are doctors and the other a software engineer -- are yet to exercise their franchise in the state as they are settled abroad.



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