Left govt making inroads into Cong’s Pravasi vote banks

Left govt making inroads into Cong’s Pravasi vote banks

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan

The proactive interventions being made by the CPM-led Left Democratic Front government in Kerala, especially Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, among Non-Resident Keralites (NRKs) in Gulf countries, are a cause for concern to the Opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) as it may hit their traditional vote banks.

Nearly 25-lakh Keralites are working abroad. The voter base of NRKs and their families is estimated to be over 50 lakhs, which is one-fifth of Kerala's total voter base of 2.54 crore.

Traditionally, the NRK votes were considered to be pro-UDF due to factors like the anti-development tag of the Left front. Majority of NRKs are from the Muslim community, which often favours the Indian Union Muslim League— a key coalition partner in the UDF.

But these pro-UDF factors seem to be suffering a jolt now owing to the proactive interventions being made by Pinarayi Vijayan among the NRKs. Even some UDF leaders overtly and covertly admit this.

Loka Kerala Sabha (LKS) was one of the flagship initiative of Vijayan.

NRKs’ representatives from different countries were invited to a conference in the state last year to get their suggestions for Kerala's development and discuss their issues.

Some favourable decisions like free of cost transportation of mortal remains of NRKs who die abroad and dividend-linked pension scheme for NRKs were announced. A regional conference of NRKs was held in UAE recently.

UAE Supreme Council member and Sharjah ruler Sheikh Sultan Bin Muhammed Al Qasimi visited Kerala and announced amnesty to about 149 Indians, quickly responding to Pinarayi’s request.

A senior UDF leader admitted that Pinarayi Vijayan could build a good rapport with NRKs. “Even some Gulf-based Malayali associations that were affiliated to the UDF are now showing loyalty towards Pinarayi,” he said.

Noted NRK social worker Ashraf Thamaraserry and Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust chairman K V Shansudheen also said that, unlike the previous LDF governments, the present LDF government could make great influence among the expats by many positive interventions like the LKS.

K C Joseph, Congress leader and Non-Resident Keralites Affairs Minister in the previous UDF government, however maintained that Pinarayi connected only with the top NRKs.

“Major issues of the ordinary NRKs, especially rehabilitation of returnees, are not being addressed. During the term of previous UDF government, ordinary NRKs could even directly ring up then chief minister Oommen Chandy and take up their grievances, he said.

Political analysts said that the UDF seems to have already initiated counter steps.

Congress leaders from Kerala, mainly Oommen Chandy, had accompanied Congress president Rahul Gandhi during his UAE visit in January.

Meanwhile, the number of overseas voters enrolled in Kerala increased to 66,584 this year from 12,653 in 2014. Since the proxy voting facility for the overseas voters is not yet enacted, only those registered overseas voters, who are in Kerala at the time of the polls could exercise franchise.