No postal ballot for NRIs causes lower enrolment

DATE: 20-Nov-2018 Reported By: Deccan Chronicle

The bill is yet to become an Act. It has yet to be passed in the Rajya Sabha and would then need the assent of the President of India.
Hyderabad: Voter enrolment of Non- Resident Indians (NRIs) is insignificant, despite millions of Telangana citizens living abroad. According to the Election Commission, only 197 NRIs have been enrolled so far in Telangana.

In the 2014 general election, there were no NRI voters. CEO Rajat Kumar said, “Even though enrolment of NRIs is available online, they have to vote in their respectivepolling stations and be physically present.”

It is not only due to lack of awareness that the enrolments are so low; it is also expensive to travel back to India and vote. Since the postal ballot option is not available for the NRIs, the Lok Sabha in August passed a bill that proposes to amend the Representation of the People Act, 1951, to enable overseas electors to appoint proxies to cast their votes in elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies.

The bill is yet to become an Act. It has yet to be passed in the Rajya Sabha and would then need the assent of the President of India.

Despite the low level of enrolment, political parties have reached out to the NRIs by visiting the countries where they reside in large numbers, before finalising their manifestos. For example, TPCC chief Uttam Kumar Reddy met Telangana NRIs in Dubai to seek inputs for the manifesto in the first week of November.

Devender Reddy, TPCC NRI coordinator, said. “It is true that there is not much interest shown by NRIs for enrolment, even though Telangana accounts for about 10 lakh citizens in the Gulf and about 28 lakh in other countries. Instead, we have decided to take their help in campaigning through social media and voice call to India.” The ruling party too is using NRIs to campaign in the state.

Some experts believe that international calling can influence the minds of voters in the state as the words of expats carry weight.

Mahesh Bigala, Telena-gna Rashtra Samithi NRI co-coordinator, said, “We are conducting 3streams of campaigning with the help of NRIs, namely, Chalo Telangana, Hello Telangana and social media army. As part of Chalo Telangana, NRIs will be in the state and campaign for the party. Currently, 15 NRIs are in the state and campaigning, and another 30-40 will be joining them soon. Through Hello Telangana, we are taking the help of 1000 NRIs who will call one lakh people in the state asking them to vote for the TRS in 100 seats.”