UDF candidate K. Sudhakaran speaking at a local football tournament in Abu Dhabi and a UDF convention in the capital Image Credit: Supplied

ABU DHABI: South Indian politicians are falling over each other to woo the UAE’s sizeable Malayali population ahead of an important legislative assembly election in the state of Kerala.

With less than three weeks left before the May 16 polls, campaigning has reached a fever pitch in the UAE, home to nearly 770,000 Keralites.

K. Sudharakaran of United Democratic Front (UDF); KT Jaleel of Left Democratic Front (LDF); Kummanam Rakashekaran, Bhartiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Kerala President; VT Balaram of Congress and Abdusammad Samadani of Muslim League are among many others who have been spotted on the campaigning trail in Abu Dhabi in recent days.

Chartered flights

Door to door canvassing, party conventions, community interactions and voter registration camps are taking place in various community centres almost daily.

If this were not enough, some political parties have even chartered special flights to enable people cast their ballots.

Manoj Pushkar global vice president, Overseas Indian Cultural Congress (OICC) said they have arranged four flights from Dubai to Kerala. “We are in talks with Jet Airways to charter two flights from Abu Dhabi as well,” he said.

Govindhan Namboodiri, general secretary of socio-cultural organisation Shakti Theatres said they are rooting for LDF.

“We don’t have the budget to charter a flight so a lot of us would be spending from our own pockets to fly home and vote,” said Namboodiri.

Abu Dhabi resident Rajendran Pillai said he will take along 35 people with him to vote for BJP’s O. Rajgopal who is contesting from Nemom, one of the 140 constituencies in Kerala.

“It is seemingly impossible for a Malayalee to remain detached from the politics back home,” said Shukoorali Kallungal, state general secretary of Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC), an affiliate of the Kerala Muslim League party.

Not interested

However, not all Keralites are gung-ho about the polls. In fact many are irked by the campaigning and called it a nuisance.

“My wife, children and mother-in-law are on a visit to Abu Dhabi till May end. I am looking forward to have a good time with them, but these political parties want us to go back and vote. They don’t see as people but as three votes,” said Abu Dhabi resident Binoy Varghese, who comes from Thrissur.

A Dubai resident said he is inundated with emails and WhatsApp messages from various political parties.

“The other day one of the contestants showed up at my Karama apartment unannounced. It was a weekend and we were about to step out for a family outing but this politician spoilt our evening. It would have been rude to turn him away as he was accompanied by a friend so I had to just bear with him,” said the IT professional from Nadapuram.