The ruling party in India, the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) has promised proxy voting to Indian citizens residing in the United States of America (US). While the method of operation for the execution of the decision is still undecided, newer ideas, concerning the Overseas Citizens of India (OCI), are already popping up.
The Union cabinet recently permitted proxy voting to Indians residing in the US, a large non-resident community, which has welcomed the decision rather fondly.
“We welcome this move,” Thomas Abraham, chairman of the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) said.
Abraham has been holding a green card for the past four decades but continues to be an Indian citizen. The decision is like a dream come true for him and others like him, he said.
According to estimates by the Election Commission of India, there are about 16 million Indian citizens living overseas, of them 70 pc are eligible to vote. While majority of these citizens are in the Middle East, the US is home to approximately 1.5 million Indians. An estimated number, most of these are young Indians, either university students or workers on H1B visa.
“This is a very good move. But I have to figure it out, what is the process,” said Sanjay Singh, a doctoral student at the University of Maryland, College Park Campus, which is in one of the suburbs of Washington DC. Singh, like many others, learnt of the news via online media, and is of the view that the decision will only bear fruits if online voting is allowed.
“This is not the case right now,” informed E M Stephen, founder president of Kerala Centre in New York. “There is a very high chance of proxy voting being misused. It could be up for sale too,” said Stephen, who has retained his Indian citizenship despite being a green card holder for more than four decades.
Senior officers of Election Commission (EC) of India recently interacted with leaders from the Indian community residing in New York and Washington, and concluded a positive response on the decision despite a few unanswered questions regarding the process.
The delegation had senior deputy election commissioner Umesh Sinha and deputy election commissioner Sandeep Saxena at the helm of affairs of the meeting.
The meeting saw participants welcoming the efforts the EC has taken for the NRIs. They also agreed to publicise and reach out to fellow Indian citizens to register for voting, GOPIO said in a statement. GOPIO had earlier passed a resolution in this context in 1989.
Bringing to limelight the problem of the misuse of proxy voting, Stephen, a community leader, favoured in-person voting. Personnel from the EC, however, noted that logistical problems could arise in such a case. The details of the voting process has not been finalised yet and a decision shall be taken on the grounds of feedback of Indian Americans and the concerns of the senior leadership.
“We would prefer direct voting, instead of proxy voting. We think, we can find ways to have secure voting process through IT. This is possible,” Abraham asserted ruing that absence of a process for the NRIs to vote is violation of constitutional rights of those Indian citizens living overseas.
A voice was raised at the meeting, asking for the up-gradation of (OCI) to that of a Dual Nationality. GOPIO also suggested that proper representation must be provided to NRIs in the Indian Parliament.
NRI voting was one of the electoral promises, the current Indian government had promised during its election campaign in 2014.
The previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government did allow NRIs to vote only if they were physically present in India.