It seems Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi have started early preparations for the General Elections 2019. And both are looking to woo NRIs. You may be surprised but there is a good reason for which they are making efforts to win the confidence of NRIs. Ever since coming to power in 2014, Modi has ignored no opportunity to connect with NRIs during his foreign visits. Apparently, a late starter in this regard, Rahul Gandhi has visited West Asia and made his first address to Non-resident Indians outside India, while PM Modi today addressed the inaugural session of the first PIO Parliamentarian Conference in New Delhi. Their speeches were loaded with political overtones. While Rahul used the Bahrain stage to attack Modi government in India, the prime minister acquainted NRIs with the achievements of NDA rule in the last four years.
“You all have lived in different countries for a long time. You would have felt that people’s view on India has changed in last three-four years. The focus on us has increased. World’s opinion about us is changing and the main reason for this is that India itself is changing, transforming. This change has come on both economic-social level and intellectual level. India has moved much beyond the thought of “things will remain as it is, nothing will change”. The expectations of Indians are at the highest level at this time. You will see the effect of the irreversible change in the system in all sectors,” PM said.
In his Bahrain speech on Monday, Rahul accused the government of dividing people on the basis of caste and religion and alleged the BJP-led Centre was converting the anger of jobless youth into hatred among communities. The Congress president also assured NRI community that he would give a “new shining Congress party” in next six months and hinted that there will be dramatic changes in the organisation, in which the people will believe in and trust. Not only this, Rahul also exuded confidence that the Congress will defeat Bharatiya Janata Party in 2019. After Bahrain, Rahul is expected to visit Canada, Singapore.
Why NRIs matter for Modi, Rahul
Interestingly, both Modi and Rahul are appealing to NRIs to come and contribute to India’s growth story. Nothing wrong in making such an appeal but there is an apparent reason for which both are trying to woo the NRIs. That is, around 2.5 crore NRIs may get to vote in the General Elections 2019!
Modi government has decided to give the NRIs right to vote in India through proxy or an e-postal ballot system. For this, the Centre is also prepared to the amend the Representation of the People Act. Proxy voting rights will allow NRIs to authorise a nominee in their respective constituencies to cast vote on their behalf. Until now, only defense personnel have enjoyed such facility.
In November last year, the Centre had told the Supreme Court that, on the basis of Elections Commission’s suggestion, a bill in this regard would be introduced in Parliament soon.
NRI groups have been fighting for voting rights in the Supreme Court for the last three years. According to the Election Commission, an NRI wishing to vote under e-ballot procedure will have to send an application either electronically or physically to the returning officer (RO), six months before the expiry of the terms of the House for which elections are to be held.
The RO will verify particulars of the NRI applicant and electronically send the postal ballot which the elector would be able to access through a password. The elector would have to download the postal ballot paper, cast the vote and post it back to the RO after vetting her/his declaration attested.
The EC had earlier told the Centre that it can start the process of giving voting rights to NRIs within three months of the proposed amendment.