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

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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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