NEW DELHI: With both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi engaged in competitive wooing of non-resident Indians, there is one issue on which the two political rivals are on the same page---granting of proxy voting rights to the NRIs holding Indian passports.
However, the Congress wants first wants a fool-proof mechanism in place before allowing the use of proxies in the electoral process.
The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2017, aims to enable NRIs holding Indian passports to appoint a proxy to cast their votes on their behalf in an election. Government estimates say the population of NRIs is over 10 million.
According to sources, the Bill, tabled in the Lok Sabha on December 18, is likely to be sent to parliamentary standing committee on law and justice to examine it.In October 2014, when the Election Commission had sought the views of political parties over proxy voting rights for the NRIs, the Congress, the CPI-M and the BSP had opposed the idea citing lack of secrecy of the ballot, which has been the hallmark of Indian democracy.
Expressing apprehension that the proxy might be prone to pressure and influence and that trust deficiency could impair the exercise, the Congress suggested that Indian embassies and consular offices in various countries should be used as polling stations for the NRIs. The party also expressed reservations about the use of internet services in casting of such votes.
“We are not against NRIs getting such rights, but this Bill heralds an important change. Issues like how to operationalise it, maintain the secrecy of NRI votes, finding electronic ways of doing it and firming up a view on similar rights for internally displaced migrants needs to be studied in depth,” Rajeev Gowda, who heads the AICC research department, said.
The Bill seeks to amend Section 60 of The Representation of the People Act, 1951, to enable overseas electors to appoint a proxy to cast the votes on their behalf.
The Registration of Electors Rules,1960, framed under the law, stipulate the physical presence of the overseas electors.