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‘Can Non Resident Indians (NRIs) cast their vote in India?’

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    8th Dec, 2020

The Government is planning to move to introduce Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System for NRIs.

Context

The Government is planning to move to introduce Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System for NRIs.

About

What is the plan?

  • The Election Commission of India's letter to the Law Ministry have proposed to give postal voting rights not proxy voting to NRIs.
  • This means the government only needs to amend the Conduct of Election Rules 1961.
  • It doesn't require Parliament's approval.

The current strength of NRI

  • As per the United Nations Report (2015), Indian diaspora population is the largest in the world at 16 million people.

The previous attempt

  • In 2014, the Election Commission had first taken up the proposal to permit non-resident Indians (NRIs) to cast their votes.
  • It had held an all-party consultation to discuss the possible methods to set up a full-proof mechanism to ensure a free-and-fair poll as the NRI voters are concerned.
  • Subsequently, the Supreme Court also upheld the rights of the person who are Indian passport holders to be able to more meaningfully participate in the democratic electoral process.
  • A bill to extend the facility of proxy voting to overseas Indians had lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.

What are the existing norms?

  • As per the existing norms, overseas voters would have to be physically present for casting vote.
    • An NRI can vote in the constituency in which his/her place of residence, as mentioned in the passport, is located.
    • He/she can only vote in person and will have to produce his/her passport in original at the polling station for establishing identity.
    • Voting rights for NRIs were introduced only in 2011, through an amendment to the Representation of the People Act 1950.
  • Practical difficulties and expenses incurred in travelling to India was the reason why a major chunk of the 30 lakh odd NRIs from Kerala have kept off from voting.
  • Hence the e-postal ballot facility would be well received by the overseas voters from the state.

Primary condition

  • The primary condition is that he/she should be a citizen of India, absent from the country owing to employment, education etc.
  • He/she must not have acquired citizenship of any other country and are otherwise eligible to be registered as a voter in the address mentioned in his/her passport.

Why NRI support is important for Indian political parties?

  • From the perspective of the Indian political parties, this diaspora support is crucial.
  • In ideological terms, the NRI community has always been a placeholder for the success of the entrepreneurial Indian who has made it.
  • An NRI is seen by many in India as a mark of success and influence. For an influential NRI to back a political party or candidate can become a very strong endorsement.
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