New Delhi, Jan 10: Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) can vote in Indian elections only if they are present in their constituencies, and it is not physically possible to allow them to vote from outside the country, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said.
“We requested the Election Commission to work out some mechanism, but they said it is not physically possible,” Ravi told IANS.
He pointed out that Indian polls are now totally conducted through electronic voting machines (EVMs), and the Election Commission has clearly said it was not possible to allow NRIs vote through ballot or email.
“We have given voting rights to NRIs. But they can vote only if they are present in the constituency where their name is listed,” he said.
The minister pointed out that rules of voting for the resident Indians were also the same.
“For example, if you are listed in some constituency in Kerala and you live in Delhi, you can’t vote in Delhi. You need to travel to your constituency to vote. It’s the same for NRIs. If they want to vote, they need to go to their constituency,” Vayalar Ravi said.
He was talking to IANS at the 12th edition of the annual diaspora meet – Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) – here.
India amended the Representation of People Act in 2010 to allow NRIs to vote in the elections.
As per the law, NRIs can get their names registered in the electoral rolls in the constituency they belong. The enrolled persons can exercise their franchise only if they are present in the constituency on the polling day.
Nearly 11 million NRIs live across the world, a substantial number of them are in the Gulf countries.
Vayalar Ravi said voting rights have been a long-standing demand of the millions of NRIs and they should try their best to exercise their franchise.
However, several NRIs say voting rights provided in the present form hardly make any difference as rarely would people travel back to India just to vote.
“I have never exercised my franchise. It would be great if we are allowed to vote from the country in which we live. Otherwise, I don’t think anybody will spend that much money and time to travel and vote,” said Kurian Verghese, a Bahrain based businessman.
A Qatar based NRI, Mohammed Belal Khan also expressed similar view.
“We have keen interest in what is happening in the Indian politics. We want to be a part, but visiting the constituency just for voting looks impractical,” said Khan, who is actively involved with Doha-based Indian Community Benevolent Forum.
(Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)