NRI Vote Ready, Are You?

NRIs have woken up to the power of their vote, as thousands of them have flown in to India to exercise their franchise. Locals, who might be planning to skip casting vote in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, can take a cue from the NRIs

Over the last two decades, Maruthi Prakash Surapaneni has been living a comfortable life in Tarneit, a city in Melbourne, Australia. Despite his long stay abroad, the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) keeps himself updated on all the political developments and policies concerning his home state of Andhra Pradesh and New Delhi as well, on a day to day basis. After all, his heart beats for India.

Recently, he flew in all the way from Melbourne to Gudivada in AP on a specific “mission” and is all set to execute it in the next 24 hours.

Maruthi Prakash is one of the thousands of NRIs who have come all the way from their countries of residence to vote in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and be part of the biggest festival of democracy. “Selecting good and capable leaders for my state and country is why I’m here,” smiles Prakash, who will be voting for the first time as an NRI.

Speaking to Chronicle, Prakash, who is all excited to exercise his franchise tomorrow, says that as a responsible Indian, he wants his home state and country to grow in all spheres. “Job opportunities, investments and better infrastructure matter to me,” says Prakash, who runs a restaurant and also has a real estate business in Tarneit.

‘Assess performance’

Like Maruthi Prakash, Dubai-based NRI, Mahesh Murthy too came down to Hyderabad to cast his vote. “The Government’s role is solely to create the conditions and environment for its citizens to live up to their fullest potential. I am looking forward to cast my vote to help select my representative in the country,” says Murthy, born and brought up in Hyderabad.

Murthy, who runs and ad agency and is an investor in many companies, will have voted in four elections so far, including 2024 and travelled from overseas to vote in two of them. “I would assess the performance of political leaders on factors like health care, food, education, infrastructure, technology and regulations that allow ease of doing business,” says Murthy, who previously lived in Hong Kong, US and Netherlands.

In the last one month, thousands of NRIs have arrived in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

Data Speaks

A state-wise analysis of data from the Election Commission of India reveals that 74.9 per cent of NRIs, who registered to vote this time are from Kerala. Andhra Pradesh comes next at 6.4 per cent followed by Maharashtra at 4.7 percent, Tamil Nadu and Telangana at 2.9 per cent each. Women account for 11 per cent.

There are over three crore Indians currently settled abroad. Of this, close to 1.35 crore are NRIs while the remaining are Persons of Indian Origin (PIO). While an NRI is an Indian citizen residing abroad for employment, business or other reasons and holds an Indian passport, a PIO is someone with Indian ancestry, possess a foreign passport and are not Indian citizens.

‘NRI votes matter’

Well known political analyst Rajalakshmi Joshi says NRI votes could impact some seats with a close margin. “In tightly fought elections, every vote counts,” she says.

Joshi says Prime Minister Narendra Modi has addressed tens of thousands of people of Indian origin in Australia, the US, the UAE, Japan and elsewhere over the last one decade and even deepened trade relations with various countries.

On the other hand, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi too has been on several visits to Universities and much publicised talks. “Both political parties have realized that their connect with the NRIs is vital to their support,” says the political analyst.

Joshi says India’s foreign policy is the key reason why NRIs are voting in large numbers this time.

That the Indian diaspora has woken up to the power of their vote can be gauged by the fact that the number of overseas electors is increasing with every election since 2014, 10-fold in 10 years.

NRI surge

Overseas electors as they are known, this is the first time that 118,000 overseas Indians have registered to vote, a majority from the South Indian states, marking a 65 per cent surge from the previous general election in 2019. Of this, about 11 per cent are women.

India has the biggest diaspora in the world followed by Mexico, Russia and China.

In the 2014 general elections, over 11,800 NRIs registered to vote, but less than one percent actually turned up.

In 2019, as many as 99,807 NRIs registered to vote of which only 25,000 flew down to exercise their franchise.

As for 2024, it is expected that the number of NRI voters will be the highest so far.

Until 2010, the NRIs were not eligible to vote in Indian elections. The same year, the government amended the Representation of the People Act, 1950, allowing NRIs, who had lived abroad for over six months, to vote.

The local voters need to take inspiration from the enthusiasm of the NRI voters and realize the impact every single vote has, not just in their own constituency, not just in the Country but on a global level, as the Government they choose will impact them and their future generations for years to come” — Rajalakshmi Joshi, political analyst

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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