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04 October 2023

Expat Indians will be able to vote from abroad... in 8 weeks

E-ballot means NRIS would have to fill in postal ballot paper and post it to their respective constituencies. (AFP)

By Joseph George

 Eight more weeks and NRIs will be able to vote from abroad

Non-Resident Indians living across the Gulf and the rest of the world may soon be able to vote using e-ballot and without having to fly back to India.

The Supreme Court in India has directed the Union government to enable the necessary mechanism within the next eight weeks.

The Supreme Court directive is significant as Delhi is the next state that is scheduled to go to polls in February.

The e-ballot means Non Resident Indians would have to fill in the postal ballot paper and post it to their respective constituencies.

There are an estimated 10 to 25 million Indians living and working abroad.

The Indian government had in 2010 allowed NRIs to vote but had to first register with their respective consulates and later be present in the constituency in order to exercise their franchise.

The latest decision could transform the political landscape in key states such as Kerala, where majority of them are based in the Gulf.

 Meanwhile the Indian government has already responded to the Supreme Court stating that its recommendations have been accepted in letter and spirit.

According to media reports from India Additional Solicitor General P L Narasimha said that the Law Ministry would be working on some amendments in the law to implement the decision.

Dubai based NRIs have already started welcoming the decision and said it will bring about a sea change in how the government in India deals with the diaspora living abroad.

“It is a great achievement for the NRIs who have been demanding for voting rights for NRIs for quite some time,” said K V Shamsudeen, chairman of the UAE based Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust.

Lauding De Sasheer’s initiative to approach the Supreme Court with this regard he said, “Now the Election Commission has to the suitable voting process. I wish al NRIs must utilize this opportunity to a part of the electoral process of the world’s largest democracy,” he said.

Kamal Vachani, Director of the Al Maya Group said the move was long awaited and proves the growing importance of an NRI. “Millions of NRIs will add to the value of the electoral system. It is a very welcome step,” he said.

Reactions have already started flowing on Twitter.

Minhaz Merchant in his tweet said, “With >20 million NRIs, SC order to allow e-voting for them within 8 weeks could be a gamechanger in future elections.”

Yet another tweet says, “About time NRI to vote so far politicians wanted their money buy not give any say. Like corporate offering non voting shares.”

There has been some opposing comments as well,. A Tweet by Ullas Nair notes, “No one cares for the NRI s who have never left the shores of India . They are the No Revenue Indians.”

Yadu Singh from Australia in his tweet says, “E-voting 4 NRIs is gr8, but India should get rid of its resistance 4 dual citizenship.”

Sanchita Jain, a communications professional working in Dubai said it would be great if the move can be initiated before Delhi goes to polls.

“I am from Delhi and I would love to vote. Soon you would see politics transforming beyond borders and through social media,” she said.

The 2014 general elections saw was mainly fought on the social media and mainly by the Narendra Modi led Bhartiya Janata Party, which eventually won the polls and formed the government.