London Dreams is among several resorts named after a European city dotting the Jalandhar-Kapurthala highway with owners having a direct or an indirect NRI connect. Not surprisingly, Doaba region is aptly called the “NRI belt” of Punjab and the NRI influence on the electoral fortunes cannot be underestimated.
With almost every household in Doaba having a family member settled abroad, it is this chunk that political parties are aggressively targeting in the February 20 assembly elections.
Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Nawanshahr have a high concentration of NRIs who religiously participate in the state assembly elections. In the 2017 elections, there have been instances when family members have influenced others on which candidate to vote for.
So, what are the issues NRIs are looking at when they go out to vote this time? Stability and better business environment, say the NRI families. With two years of Covid-19 pandemic having impacted the global economy, these families are hoping for a stable business environment.
For 75-year-old Gulshan Singh Ghai of Jalandhar, which has been the hub of immigration, elections in Punjab have been an integral part of their visit not only to cast their vote but to also tell their family members whom to vote for. Ghai’s family members live in Canada. “The pandemic has rocked the world, jobs and business of our kin’s abroad have come under duress. We don’t have any control over foreign economies but yes when it comes to the local economy, we want someone at the helm who provides stable and durable government,” commented Ghai.
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Another NRI, Lakhwinder Singh from Leister in the UK, who is visiting his ancestral village Palahi in Kapurthala, echoes Ghai’s views. Singh says for every Punjabi who lives abroad but has roots in Punjab, it is important for them to see which party is in power because of business interests and investments.
Singh, who owns the London Dreams Resort, a party plot and banquet hall, which caters primarily during the wedding season between October and March, is concerned about the business not doing too well of late due to the pandemic, and all he too wants is a “stable government”.
Sharing his sentiments, another NRI, Karamveer Singh, says, “Elections in the home state are important for every resident because the future of the state depends (on it).” Karamveer further said they do show their interest and cast vote but, unlike earlier, they do not get involved now in campaigning.
He said it was the pressure from political parties who consider NRIs as their vote bank. “A lot of NRIs work towards improving the infrastructure of their villages and that becomes an advantage for political parties only,” admitted Karamveer.
Political leaders agree that the NRIs is a segment that cannot be ignored. “It is not only their influence but it is their reach in the diaspora, which is important for brand building,” said a senior Congress leader of Jalandhar west.
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