Over 11 million Indians living abroad will not be able to exercise their franchise during the forthcoming general elections, Vayalar Ravi, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs said. Though India amended the Representation of People Act in 2010, to allow NRIs to vote in the elections such citizens can cast their ballot only if they are present in their own constituencies in India, he said, adding it is not physically possible to allow them to vote from outside the country,
“We requested the Election Commission to work out some mechanism, but they said it is not physically possible. 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.
NRIs can register in the electoral rolls in the constituency they belong. 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 are useless since 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 do not think anybody will spend that much money and time to travel and vote,” said Kurian Verghese, a Bahrain based businessman.