On Tuesday, as voters lined up in front of the Aided Mopla Lower Primary School that transformed into a polling booth in the sleepy coastal village of Nattika, a man drove up to the school in a white-and-black Mini Cooper. Accompanied by his aides, the man, dressed in a plain shirt and mundu, walked up to the booth, smiling and joining the end of a queue. A few minutes later, he entered the booth, cast his vote, shook hands with a few locals and drove back.
The man is none other than MA Yusuff Ali, a native of Nattika, who migrated from the village in the early 70s to Abu Dhabi where he joined his uncle in business. Today, Yusuff Ali is the world’s richest Malayali and managing director of Lulu Group International, which runs a stream of hypermarkets, shopping malls and retail chains across India and the Middle East.
On Tuesday, the businessman, who has a net worth of $4.6 billion, participated in India’s democratic exercise as he landed from Malaysia to register his vote in his native village of Nattika in Kerala. Yusuff Ali makes routine business and personal trips to Kerala even though he is based out of Abu Dhabi.
The billionaire is reported to have wrapped up a meeting in Kuala Lumpur before flying in his personal jet to Kochi. There, he hopped onto his private helicopter and landed near the school in Nattika where his voter credentials were registered. Incidentally, it’s the same school where he’s reported to have completed his primary education. He was accompanied by his wife.
Yusuff Ali, widely seen in Kerala as a symbol of hardworking Malayali expatriate community in the Middle East, told Gulf News, "No matter how successful you become in life, remember you have a certain responsibility towards your country. There is no point being a fence sitter and talking about good and bad of your country politics unless you choose to become part of the system. The Constitution of India gives you the right to exercise your vote so take it and use it judiciously. If you don't exercise it, you don't have the right to complain and criticise."
When polling concluded late into the night on Tuesday, it became clear that the state had registered the highest voter turn out in three decades. Close to 77.68 per cent of the state’s voters had exercised their franchise, a significant jump from the 74 per cent polling it registered in the 2014 polls. Wayanad, home to the largest tribal population in the state, recorded 80 per cent voting, impressing poll-watchers.