Explain: Why won’t Gulf NRIs receive postal voting rights for now?

Written by Ritika Chopra, edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |

Updated: December 15, 2020 8:23:55 PM

The EC has not yet included the Gulf countries in its proposed pilot project.

In a meeting last week with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MEA), the Electoral Commission (EC) indicated to the government the countries in which it would I like the introduction of postal voting for NRIs on a pilot basis.

The proposal can first be implemented for voters in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, Germany, France and South Africa.

For now, The Gulf countries are not part of the proposed pilot project.

What is the reason why the EC excluded Gulf countries, which have a significant Indian diaspora, from the proposed pilot?

Clearly, the Commission has nothing against NRIs established in Gulf countries such as Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. However, the MEA has in the past expressed strong reservations about facilitating voting for Indian citizens living in undemocratic nations.

Holding a democratic exercise, involving voters queuing outside Indian missions and embassies, in non-democratic countries will require permits and the host nation may not approve.

In view of these concerns, the EC has not yet included the Gulf countries in its proposed pilot project.

What is the current strength of NRI voters?

According to a 2015 UN report, India’s diaspora population is the largest in the world, with 16 million people.

In comparison, NRI voter registration was very low: just over 1 lakh of overseas Indians registered as voters in India, according to the EC.

In last year’s Lok Sabha elections, about 25,000 of them flew to India to vote. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

Which foreign countries have the highest number of INRs registered as voters in India?

The EC has no data on NRI voters broken down by country. Rather, the Commission keeps data for each state in India.

Therefore, we know the states where INRs are registered as voters, but not the foreign country in which they reside.

Out of 1.18 lakh NRI voters, the largest number – about 89,000 – are registered to vote in Kerala. The second largest cohort (approximately 7,500) is recorded in Andhra Pradesh, followed by Maharashtra (approximately 5,500), Karnataka (approximately 4,500), Tamil Nadu (3,200) and Telangana (2,500).

Given that the voting committee currently wants to allow overseas voters to vote in Indian elections abroad, it will still need to maintain information at the national level.

If approved, how will ballot voting for the NRI work?

In its meeting last week with the EAW, the EC proposed that any NRI interested in voting by ballot in the election will have to inform the returning officer (RO) no later than five days after the notification of the election. Upon receipt of this information, RO will send the electronic ballot.

An officer assigned to the Indian mission will download the ballot on behalf of the voter and hand it over to the overseas voter. The overseas voter may then mark his or her preference for the mission, receive the self-declaration form certified by the designated officer, and submit the ballot paper and the declaration form to the mission in a sealed envelope.

The mission will then send all the envelopes to the election officer in question.

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