The United Kingdom after being through one of the most tumultuous years in its history — Brexit and a spate of terrorist attacks on its soil recently — voted in 2017 General Election on Thursday. Eligible Commonwealth citizens, despite not being British citizens, also voted to make their voice heard in the election that has pitted the incumbent Prime Minister Theresa May against Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn for the top job in Britain. Under the current law, the UK extends voting rights to new arrivals from Commonwealth countries, including India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, with more than six months of stay, making thousands of Indian students eligible to vote.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, Reetika Subramanian, a PhD Scholar in Cambridge, who landed in Britain from India last year, said about her voting experience, “I find it strange that we get to vote and at the same time we pay international fees, are abided by visa requirements and many restrictions.” She found that voting in elections made her more involved in the political discourses of the UK.
To avail the voting rights, every immigrant has to apply for National Insurance Number. He or she must have the right to work or study in the UK to get an NI number.
Subhendu Anand, a student in M.Sc in Intellectual Property from Queen Mary, University of London, said, “As an Indian, it’s wonderful to have voted in UK elections. And we have voted, I believe, according to our political preferences, not en masse to any party.”
Reetika, speaking about her political preferences, said, “In light of all the hate politics directed at Muslims, and the way Tories have responded, I feel it is important to have a PM and a party we can engage with. Standing by Labour, I feel I will be able to do my bit in hoping that we have a party that engages, not decides and dictates.”
As for Subhendu, “British people have a greater stake in it. However, I have voted for Theresa May because of her tough stand on Terrorism after the attacks.”
Brahmi Chakravorty, a postgraduate student at LSE, while voting with her Pakistani friends Aleena Waheed and Sania Haider in London, remarked, “Britain chose to divide us, and we have voted to unite them!”
The weeks leading up to elections had been high-pitched. During the campaign, the college campuses were bubbling with support for the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour Party mobilised a lot of support among student community through discussions and debates on campuses. Earlier, the Labour pledged to remove foreign students from net migration figures and to replace the current minimum income rule for foreign spouses, which brought a lot of cheer to Indian student community.
British, Irish and qualifying Commonwealth citizens cast their votes in 650 constituencies across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for their local member of parliament on Thursday.
The latest official exit poll indicated a hung parliament with a marginal victory for The Conservative Party.