Thiruvananthapuram: After voting rights were awarded to Non-Resident Indians, it was expected that they would flock to polling booths but their turnout was quite dismal in the April 13 Assembly elections in Kerala.
While there are over two million Keralites working abroad, only 8,820 had registered as voters and the turnout was as low as 4,639, according to official figures. Political parties in Kerala were on the forefront to demand voting rights for overseas voters, a vast majority of whom are employed in the Gulf countries.
As thousands of families back home depend on remittances from Non Resident Keralites, all parties in Kerala attach great significance to this category. Kerala was the first state to set up a separate government department for welfare of NRKs and to start several social and economic security schemes for them.
The initial expectations were that a large number of NRKs would fly to their home state to exercise their franchise. But to the surprise of politicians, both registration and turnout of NRKs were extremely poor.
According to figures with the Chief Electoral Officer, the highest number of NRK votes was polled in Kuttiyadi constituency in Kozhikode district, which also had registered the highest poll percentage of 87.17 in the state.
Of the total 931 overseas voters registered in Kuttiyadi, 617 cast their votes.
The lowest number of NRI votes was polled in Kollam where only 21 of 201 people registered for voting turned up. Idukki came second in terms of lowest overseas votes with 24 votes followed by Kottayam and Ernakulam with 44 each.
Out of 140 constituencies in Kerala, not a single NRK vote was cast in 22 segments, while in eight assembly seats one NRI vote each was cast.