Non-resident Indians (NRIs) may be able to vote by the next general elections in 2014, prime minister Manmohan Singh said in his inauguration speech at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) here on Friday. In fact, the PM said he wants NRIs to return to India to join active politics and contest elections.
NRIs are Indian citizens who live abroad but are Indian passport holders. As of now, there is no provision to facilitate their voting from abroad.
“I recognise the legitimate desire of Indians living abroad to exercise their franchise and to have a say in who governs India. We are working on this issue and I sincerely hope that they will get a chance to vote by the time of the next regular general elections. In fact, I would go a step further and ask why more overseas Indians should not return home to join politics and public life as they are increasingly doing in business and academia,” the prime minister said.
Singh probably had in mind politicians like Madhu Goud Yaskhi, the NRI businessman from New York, who shifted base to Hyderabad and is now a second-term Congress member of Parliament from Nizamabad. Similarly, former Andhra Pradesh chief minister YSR Reddy’s brother Vivekanand Reddy returned to join Indian politics.
However, it is not clear whether the government will allow their participation in elections though proxy voting or postal ballot.
But BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said, “In principle, we agree that every Indian should be given the right to vote but there has to be a clear roadmap and technology to carry out this plan. For example, only 5% of our soldiers posted at borders have been able to exercise their franchise despite special arrangements made for them. NRI voting should not go the same way.”
Singh told persons of Indian origin and NRIs to make big investments in India “instead of putting small amounts here and there”.
“Overseas Indians, however, while being good savers tend to be somewhat conservative investors. Most remittances are placed in bank deposits,” he said.
Referring to attacks on Indian students in Australia and atrocities on Indian workers, the PM said the government was working on a project to provide a social security safety net for returning workers.