Voting rights for NRIs run into EC hurdle
New Delhi: The Election Commission's insistence on physical verification of millions of NRIs wishing to get voting rights has led to delay in finalising
modalities for entry of their names in electoral rolls.
Although Parliament had in the Monsoon Session passed
the Representation of People (Amendment) Bill, 2010 to allow
NRIs to vote in Indian elections, no consensus could be
hammered out by the government and EC on the process to
include the names in the voters' list.
"The Election Commission has been insisting that there
should be physical verification of the NRIs wanting to get
their names enrolled in electoral rolls. But we have opposed
the proposal as it would be virtually impossible," top sources
in the government said.
Top officials from External Affairs Ministry and
Overseas Indian Affairs Ministry had already held several
rounds of discussions with the Election Commission.
The MEA has told the EC that it would not be possible
for embassies to physically verify the NRIs as in Saudi Arabia
alone the number of Indians would be nearly 1.5 million.
Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi said it
was up to the EC to finalise the modalities but at the same
time the guidelines should be practical.
"The EC has been very positive towards the issue and I
hope the commission will be able to finalise the modalities at
the earliest," said Ravi.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, addressing the Pravasi
Bhartiya Divas earlier this year, had indicated that Indian
passport holders living abroad could get voting rights by the
time of next Lok Sabha elections in 2014.
Ravi said NRIs, "who have not acquired citizenship of
any other country and are living abroad owing to employment,
education or otherwise, are eligible to register their names
in the electoral rolls" in their places as mentioned in their
An estimated 11 million NRIs are living in various
countries across the world and voting rights has been a
longstanding demand of the community.
According to the amendment, an NRI will be able to
exercise the franchise only if he or she is present in the
constituency on the polling day.
As per the existing rules, an NRI's name gets deleted
from the voters list if he or she stays outside the country
for more than six months at a stretch.