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Who will the NRIs VOTE for in Indian elections?

Last updated on: January 9, 2012 11:55 IST

Who will the NRIs VOTE for in Indian elections?

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday told the ongoing Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Jaipur that Non Resident Indians should be allowed to vote and participate in the election process. Some NRIs at the event tell A Ganesh Nadar what the PM's statement means to them

Much like Mumbai's local trains, the seating arrangements at the 10th edition of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas are on a first-come, first-serve basis.

For the 1,500 delegates, bureaucrats along with families, journalists and exhibitors attending the event, the venue had only 1,300 seats.

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Image: Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, is the chief guest at this year's PBD
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

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Those who could not get seats had to make do with watching the sessions on TV in the neighbouring building.

"I spent Rs 13,500 to register for this convention. Why should I watch it on TV? I can do that at home," complained an elderly delegate.

Cricketing great Brian Lara, who attended the second day of PBD, was also forced to sit in the TV room initially due to lack of seats. The ministry of overseas Indian affairs soon became aware of the faux pas and Lara was given a seat in the main hall.

Meanwhile, there was a variety of reactions to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's proposal foor voting rights for Non Resident Indians.

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Image: Brian Lara at the Jaipur PBD
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

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Who will the NRIs VOTE for in Indian elections?

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Laxman Ravat, a resident of Switzerland for the last 52 years, told rediff.com, "I will vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party; in my childhood, I used to exercise with the Rashtriya Janata Party. I have many friends in the RSS. I also have friends in the Congress. I am actually neutral like my adopted country Switzerland."

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Image: Laxman Ravat
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

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Arun Nellian, a resident of Singapore originally from Sivaganga district in Tamil Nadu, said, "I will vote for a good administrator who is honest. I will vote for the individual, not for any political party."

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Image: Arun Nellian
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

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Who will the NRIs VOTE for in Indian elections?

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Thomas Abraham of the United States, is the founder-president of the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin, which is the largest organisation of NRIs in the world, and has attended the PBD each year since its inception.

Abraham points out that NRIs will have to spend close to $2,000 to come to India and vote.

"Voting should be allowed in the Indian embassies. Or the government should introduce Internet voting which can be secured with a password," said Abraham.

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Image: Thomas Abraham
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

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But Hamzaah Abbas, editor of the Gulf Madhyam daily that has nine editions in six countries, strongly disagrees with Abraham.

"This is a prestigious gift from the government. They have accepted us as citizens. The problem is registration. (Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs) Vyalar Ravi has pledged to introduce online registration," he said.

Abbas adds, "I have lived in the Gulf for 22 years. I started the newspaper in 1999. Today, it is the number one paper in the Gulf."

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Image: Hamzaah Abbas
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

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Shihab Kottukad, from Kollam in Kerala, believes that voting rights would politically empower NRIs.

"Now people will ask what the NRIs want. Many NRIs are poor, they have no savings. They should be rehabilitated in India in small and medium businesses. The government should encourage them," said Kottukad.

Though the majority of the NRIs have welcomed the PM's proposal, some of them are sceptical about whether people will actually take the trouble of travelling to India during election time to cast their votes.


Image: Shihab Kottukad
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

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