Granting of Voting Rights for NRIs Opposed by Parliamentary Standing Committee

Friday, April 20th, 2012 | by

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs has raised objections regarding the Central government’s move to grant voting franchise to Non-Residential Indians. The committee consisting of 26 MPs has sought clarifications from the Secretary of External Affairs before any decision is taken in this regard. The committee is being led by Ananth Kumar, BJP MP, Bangalore.

At the meeting held on 12 April, members pointed out that the move will lead to NRIs asking for contesting in elections, even as they remain unrelated with the land, its local issues and voters.

“Except for one member, all other 15 MPs who attended the meeting opposed the government decision. We have raised 46 queries with the external affairs ministry. We will take a final decision on the issue in our next meeting. Most of the members, including those belonging to the parties in the ruling UPA alliance such as Trinamool Congress, NCP and DMK, were against the move,” said one of the members of the committee.

“If the government allows them to vote, next they will demand rights to contest polls. NRIs who have been residing abroad for 20 to 30 years may not know local issues. So they cannot be allowed to be people’s representatives. If the government allows them to vote in the Lok Sabha elections, next, they will want to vote in local body polls too,” said the member.

Committee members also raised the concern of the Election Commission facing the strain of setting up its infrastructure in other countries in order to facilitate the voting of NRIs. The process they feel, will entail large amount of money and will be impossible to be implemented logistically.

Earlier, following the desire expressed by NRIs to use their franchise in India, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh issued a statement saying he had recognized their rights, adding that he hoped to see them cast their votes in the next general election of 2014. “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,” said the Prime Minister as he addressed the gathering at Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas, Jaipur.

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