Qila Raipur: In Punjab, NRI candidates are clearly a valuable asset for political parties. Not only are they financially viable, bringing in large amounts of foreign currency to fuel their election campaign, they also have a certain novelty value that may impress voters.

It’s a far cry from California where he owns two gas stations. Back home after 19 years in the US, Narinder Pal Singh Hundal, who also heads the overseas branch of the Akali Dal, is campaigning from village to village as a Panthic Morcha candidate from Gharshankar.

Hundal’s family may have stayed in America, but he says he has come back to pay his dues. “I want to give back to Punjab the kind of administration I have seen in the US and Canada. I have seen how people are happy with the government there and I want it to be the same here,” he said.

Hundal is not the only one. At least eight NRIS are contesting this time from Punjab’s 117 constituencies.

Prominent among them are Barinder Singh Bains for the Panthic Morcha from Hoshiyarpur, Sukhbir Singh Rakhada from the Akali Dal Badal from Samana, Gurdayal Kaur from the Congress from Qila Raipur and Rattan Singh Siddhu as an independent from Tarn Taran.

They may have been away from home, but they have kept their linkages alive and they are back now with the moneybags. Their dollars are fueling the election campaign and that means a great deal of political influence. In fact until recently, an influential group of NRIs was trying to broker a truce between Prakash Singh Badal and Gurcharan Singh Tohra.

In the village of Kalai near Qila Raipur, Gurdayal Kaur received a tumultuous welcome. She is back home after 25 years in England and is now standing for Congress. “I want to make this place prosperous and have the kinds of comforts that I have seen in the West,” said Gurdayal Kaur.

Whether these dreams will translate into reality will only be known on February 13 when the people of Punjab cast their votes.