Voting at home remains a costly affair for Gujarati diaspora
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So far, only four NRG voters are registered with the Election Commission
Gujaratis may have a huge presence abroad and participate effectively in the US presidential elections, but as far as their home state goes, the economics of the whole process of voting acts as a deterrent for them.
When the elections dates were announced last week, only four NRI voters were registered with the Election Commission. Shobhana Patel, (51) her son Sawant (28) and daughter Phalguni (26) from Kenya made it to the electoral rolls of Gujarat as late as August 31. Earlier, just one woman NRI voter from Kutch featured in the electoral rolls this year.
"The EC has started online registrations and has also appointed an election emissary, Dhwanit Thakker (a radio jockey), who addressed the 50,000-strong NRG population at the Global Gujarati conference in August this year. He extensively tried to push the cause of NRI votes by talking about their voting facility provided by the EC," said Anita Karwal, chief electoral officer, Gujarat.
Parindu Bhagat, convenor of Gujarat BJP's election cell, said, "Voters have to come in person to cast their vote. Since no postal ballot or e-voting system is in place, this is highly unfeasible... As a party, we discount this NRG voter base despite having a lot of supporters because just having an electoral card is not enough."
Officials in Anand and Kheda say the prohibitive costs of travelling to cast vote dissuades NRGs from voting.
Kheda's deputy election officer Rajnikant Valvi said, "We are to hold meetings with organisations and associations of NRGs to encourage people living abroad to come and vote."
According to Nagin Patel, a US citizen and chairman of Charotar Moti Satyavis Leuva Patidar Samaj, nearly 6,000 families of Anand district live in the US, Britain, Australia and African countries. Similarly, a huge number of Patels from Nadiad and surrounding villages in neighbouring Kheda district have settled overseas, according to Rakesh Rao, president of Kheda district Panchayat.