Expats gathered at a villa in Al Barsha to watch the live coverage of the poll results Image Credit: Sajila Saseendran/Gulf News

Dubai: From ditching work to follow live updates to organizing cake-cutting ceremonies and celebration parties, several Indian expats in the UAE had an eventful day as the results of the 18th general elections in India were declared on Tuesday.

Expats from various Indian states tuned in to national and local television channels, websites, and social media since early morning to follow the outcome of the world’s largest democracy’s elections. Several expat groups held their own exit poll predictions, with winners receiving prizes.

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With an estimated 3.5 million Indians living in the UAE, thousands had flown back to India to cast their votes during the marathon six-week, seven-phase election.

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In Dubai, dozens of ardent supporters of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gathered at a villa in Al Barsha to watch the live coverage of the poll results. The hall was decorated with saffron-coloured balloons and featured two life-size cutouts of Modi.

Meenakshi Bhasin

Meenakshi Bhasin, the host, said she was “fervently praying for the country to remain in safe and strong hands that will keep the flag of India flying high in the world.”

Dr Nishi Singh

Dr. Nishi Singh, an attendee, mentioned that many people took time off work or a full day’s leave to join the event. “The excitement for the 2024 election results mounted by the minute as we NRIs in Dubai celebrated with prayers, song, and dance. Truly, the festival of democracy of the most populous nation peaked today as we eagerly awaited to see who would take over the reins of the government for the next five years.”

Majority in question

Another group of friends from different sectors and political affiliations gathered at an apartment in International City to watch the results live.

Praveen Kumar

“Since the last general elections, we’ve come together like this to watch all major election results. Today, we had to take leave from work as it is a working day,” said Praveen Kumar, an IT consultant and a member of the medical volunteering team with the Indian Consulate in Dubai.

He expressed his desire for a stable government with a clear majority, noting, “In the absence of a clear majority, it will be difficult to get bills passed in parliament. It will not be a smooth ride for BJP like last time as they will have to depend on the allies.”

Voters’ delight

Sreerag Shine

Sreerag Shine, a student from the UAE who cast his vote in Kerala, said he felt proud that he contributed to the democratic system in India and his vote mattered. “I voted for Congress MP of Attingal constituency, Adoor Prakash. The competition was really tough and he won with the least majority in Kerala. That means my vote did make an impact,” said Sreerag who is currently preparing for an entrance exam after completing grade 12 from GEMS Our Own English High School in Sharjah.

Priyadarshee Panigrahi

Priyadarshee Panigrahi, whose father Sriballav Panigrahi was a former minister and parliamentarian from Odisha, had undertaken a 20 hour-journey via air, rail and road modes to his hometown to cast his vote last month. The head of the MENA operations of a multinational company did not fail to keep track of the results even though he had to travel to Qatar for work.

“I was glued to TV channels through their websites and various news portals since early morning, grasping election news and various discussions before I headed to work. Elections are ‘festivals of democracy’ and the people have spoken. The results and trends are a bit surprising, and it looks like there will be a strong opposition,” he said in a WhatsApp message.

Celebration time

Jitendra Vaidya

Jitendra Vaidya, president of Indian People’s Forum, UAE, said the members would be holding a celebration on Tuesday night. “It was wonderful to see that he [Modi] is on his way to form the government for the third time in India. He has taken India to a different level internationally and he will definitely make India the third largest economy,” he added.

Meanwhile, a cake cutting ceremony was planned by members of the Indian Association Sharjah celebrating the success of the United Democratic Front in Kerala, said Nisar Thalangara, president of Indian Association Sharjah.

Nisar Thalangara

“We need a strong, inclusive central government without divisions. The NDA’s expectation of 400 seats was not met, highlighting their failure in many states. It’s time for them to correct their mistakes. As expats, we have long-standing concerns like high airfares during peak travel times and the inability to vote. We need a mechanism for overseas voting and better medical support for aging expats. The UAE always supports whoever is in power in India. So, I am sure our ties will become stronger.”