Proxy votes for NRIs is a major breakthrough for NRIs – UKMALAYALEE

Proxy votes for NRIs is a major breakthrough for NRIs

Friday 2 March 2018 1:30 AM UTC

By Jeevan Vipinachandran

In August of 2017 the Indian cabinet cleared a motion that NRIs be given the power to vote in Indian elections by proxy, a positive move for Malayalees that want more say in how their homeland is run.

This significant change is designed to help create a more inclusive political and electoral process. It also partly fulfils a longstanding demand of many Indians living abroad.

In many instance they continued to maintain their ties with India, contributed enormously to India’s development and

international profile.

As a result the pressure to grant them at least some voting rights became substantial, which generated a government response.

The move to proxy votes is likely a step in the right direction to enable NRIs living abroad to cater to their needs as politically active individuals.

At a time when India is quickly changing and there is much debate about the future direction of the country both economically and socially there was always going to be a groundswell of support for some form of NRI voting. Efforts to get electronic voting for NRIs are still ongoing.

As ever with seemingly all Indian government initiatives there are important caveats. The effort to amend the Representation of the People Act only extends to proxy votes, and not actual voting at an Indian embassy or high commission, unlike in comparable French or Australian elections.

The Non Resident Indian concerned will have to send a letter of authorisation that lets the person whom they are nominating to vote, do so on their behalf.

Interestingly Kerala is one of the states which has pushed harder for NRI voting, whether that is through proxy voting or electronic voting. This is not surprising given the massive number of Malayalees who live abroad.

People from Kerala living in the Gulf may find the new proxy voting rights to be particularly useful because of the role they play in Keralan economy.

Significant challenges do exist in the state’s capacity for implementation of the new voting policy. There are obvious fraud and security issues to cover, even while balancing against the need to protect the confidentiality of the numerous proxy voters.

How can the Indian and Kerala governments ensure that someone is actually voting as a proxy for an NRI? Just as importantly will they vote as the NRI wants?

Proxy voting also poses other issues. There will be questions over the system of voting to be utilised – should it be the same as that used in Indian parliamentary and local elections, when they are held?

Interestingly there has yet to be a major consultation over India’s main political parties over this, although the enthusiasm of the BJP and the lukewarm approach of the Congress likely reflects their differing perspectives on the impact of NRI voting.

The BJP leader Mr Modi remains very popular with NRIs generally. No doubt the NRI voting once implemented can have a great impact on the Indian political scene.

A useful links on NRI voting are from the Indian election commission is below: http://eci.nic.in/eci_main1/nri.aspx#

Jeevan Vipinachandran is a political analyst and writer, specialising in political violence and counter-terrorism. He graduated from LSE with a Masters in Comparative Politics: Conflict Studies.

He has written for the Conservative Party, Future Foreign Policy and the Times of Israel. Regular updates can be found on Twitter on @jeevanvc  and www.jeevanvc.com.

Jeevan also blogs on business development and holistic lifestyle growth at www.my-wise-owl.com.

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