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The Non-Resident Indian community in the United States has hailed the Union Cabinet’s decision to amend the Representation of People’s Act to extend proxy voting rights to Indians abroad.
The decision of the Indian government is a dream come true for people like me and many others, Thomas Abraham, the chairman of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), told news agencies. Abraham is an Indian citizen despite having a Green Card.
Senior officials of the Election Commission of India, in a meeting with eminent Indian American community leaders in New York and Washington, received positive feedback from the community members, who also raised some questions on the process. Participants in these meetings welcomed the effort from EC and agreed to publicise it, and reach out to the Indian citizens to register for voting, according to statement released by GOPIO.
EM Stephen, the founder president of Kerala Center in New York, expressed some misgivings. He preferred to vote in person at Indian diplomatic missions abroad to prevent any misuse of proxy voting.
According to the Election Commission of India, there are about 16 million Indians living outside the country. Of them, around 70 per cent are eligible to vote. In the US, the number of NRIs is about 800,000 to 1.5 million.
Back home, the reaction to this move is cautious. Speaking to The Wire, former Chief Election Commissioner TS Krishnamurthy said: “It is very difficult to say that these should be given to whole communities, they should be used very selectively, for example to persons with disabilities or those who are ailing. It cannot be given as a matter of right to everybody. Only in certain cases where the NRIs are unable to travel to their country then it can be considered. But for that too first you have to see that the safeguards are in place.”
He was especially wary of proxy voting because of its possible misuse. He added: “There can be a criticism that proxy voting has been influenced. So if we can ensure that it can be done well in a limited scale, then only should we look to expanding its scope.”
On Twitter, the Matter Sparked Varied Comments
Why shd NRIs even have right to vote, leave alone voting by proxy? Democracy is having to live with the consequences of your voting choice
— K (@monteskw) August 2, 2017
Bad move. Why proxy voting?? If you wish to give voting rights to NRI, open up polling booths in your consulates. Then let them vote. https://t.co/Srps0fykTT
— Yashwant Deshmukh (@YRDeshmukh) August 2, 2017
Extending voting rights to NRIs was part of BJP’s electoral promise in 2014 general elections.