Recently, the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, while addressing the annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Diaspora announced-
“Pursuant to the law that was enacted to enable Non-resident Indians to vote in our national elections, the government has issued notifications for registration of overseas electors under the Representation of People Act, 1950. This constitutes the first major step to enable Indian residents abroad to participate in our election process.”
Well, this announcement was made at the commencement of assembly elections in five Indian states including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur. I don’t know if there is any hidden agenda in the Prime Minister’s statement, but I welcome this idea!
Those NRIs who have registered with the embassies of their respective countries of residence, would be eligible to vote in the upcoming polls. These polls will take place in these countries between Jan 28 and March 3.
My fellow columnist earlier wrote, NRIs are also citizens of India and should be treated as equals to residents. The political scene of the nation affects them equally and they have the right to decide which party, according to them, would serve the nation better.
It has been more than a year since the government granted voting rights to Non Resident Indians. I have never been outside India and hence am unaware of the ground realities. But reports say that the participation of Non Resident Indians in this initiative is very low.
I don’t find this encouraging at all.
I understand the complications here. Ironically, there is no law in India that allows a resident of Punjab working in Bangalore to vote in the upcoming elections there. But please understand, what you have got is a privilege! Don’t waste it.
Democracy in India is by-and-large, not driven by free speech. It is unfortunately driven by free beer. In villages and suburbs, many residents vote for the person whose party workers and hooligans bribe or threaten them the most. These residents, with an empty stomach, don’t (and shouldn’t be expected to) feel one with the nation building process.
It is you, the NRIs who, so to say, will deliver quality votes. You are active online and hence better connected to the Indian citizen media. You understand the big picture and the socio-politico-economic situation in India. Also, you’ll be the least affected by free beer. You NRIs are perceived to be (and usually are) richer than the general masses and hence there is no point in paying you for your vote. Moreover, since you live abroad, it becomes difficult for these party workers to bribe you without being held accountable for it.
The NRI population more than 3% of Indian population. Your 30 million additional votes can turn tables. Every single vote can, and does, count.
There are threats in this process as well. The first and foremost is the very process in which you’ll exercise your power to vote. Those who have registered with the embassies of your respective countries of stay can cast your votes when time comes. It is important that the process is legitimate and unbiased. Ensure that there is adequate security on the day of voting.
The second threat is the media. Well, by-and-large, media is the greatest threat to mankind. Don’t depend on mass-media which will bombard you with planned propaganda. Follow citizen-media as well. The fact you are reading this article proves that you are on the right track!
We the residents of India, welcome this initiative. We have the deepest faith in you the non-resident-lovers of this land. We have the deepest faith in your abilities in joining us and making this country a better place for all.
Please come up and exercise your duty to vote.
A resident of India.