‘Can be sold for profit’: Sitaram Yechury warns about postal ballots for NRIs
Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury told the Hindustan Times on Tuesday that the Election Commission’s proposal to extend voting-by-mail facilities to overseas voters is an exercise fraught with manipulation to large scale, suggesting to the electoral body to establish an electoral college. in their missions abroad, a practice followed by other countries.
“Especially in the Gulf countries, many Indians are kidnapped by managers who even confiscate their passports,” Yechury told the Hindustan Times. “The people who work there will be under immense pressure, their postal ballots can be easily tampered with and sold for profit.”
Yechury was referring to the EC proposal sent to the Ministry of Justice on November 27 to expedite an amendment to the People’s Representation Law, which will allow non-resident Indians to vote remotely using the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System ( EPTBS) in the upcoming elections in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam, Puducherry and West Bengal. The amendments, if passed, will have far-reaching ramifications, as they will not require the approval of Parliament.
“When this question was first asked in 2014, we said it was not feasible,” Yechury said. “Then the BJP introduced a bill in the Lok Sabha that was not approved by the Rajya Sabha.”
The veteran leader added that the main electoral body was increasingly bypassing the deliberative process, in which it consulted all political parties before making such a decision, which had been its modus operandi since Independence.
“Increasingly, decisions are made without consultation,” Yechury said. “The same thing happened when it came to expanding the scope of postal ballots during the Bihar elections, a decision that the EC ultimately did not implement.”
According to Yechury, the ideal method of allowing Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to vote at the polls would be to establish a polling station at their missions abroad to allow physical voting.
“The practice is followed all over the world and in this way a free and fair exercise of voting rights can be guaranteed,” he said. “Diplomats, businessmen who come to India from abroad often use this medium to cast their vote.”
Currently, voters living outside of India can only cast their vote in their respective constituencies. The amendment proposes that foreign voters send a notice on Form 12 to the Registrar’s Officer within five days of the date of said election. In return, the OR will issue a vote-by-mail ballot to the voter.
There are 12.6 million Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), those with an Indian passport but who normally reside outside the country, spread across more than 200 nations, according to the government. The number could make a significant difference in states that have large populations abroad, such as Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Telangana, and Punjab.