Increasing NRI Voter Base Shows Rising Interest in Elections

Starting April 11, 2019, the 17th Lok Sabha elections in India will be underway and will continue in phases until May 19. The excitement and fervor continues on the streets of India in the name of campaigning. What is different this time was the courting of the NRI voter base outside of India. Both the ruling party as well as the opposition is making an effort to lure the NRI voter. This came into the fore when the Election Commission of India decided to give NRIs a voice in the electorate. A Representation of People Act Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha that did not pass and lapsed over time. But the ball on the thought process was set rolling and this has inspired a bigger voter-base abroad than ever before.

The NRI everywhere was encouraged to register as a voter. Embassies and voter registration booths were set up in different cities with a large Indian population outside of India. Even an online portal was set up with access to forms, directions to fill and submit along with a list of nominal identifying documents. However, the facility to actually vote never fructified. Various options were floated that sometime took the form of casting an online ballot and sometime of proxy voting. In either option, the transparency was questioned and thus, not passed.

Having said that, the number of NRIs registering to vote outside of India continues to rise. With over ten million NRIs residing outside of India today, there are over 71, 735 who are registered to vote. This covers 66,866 or 93.21% men and 4,849 or 6.75% women, while 20 identify with ‘Other’ gender as of today. This is a big jump from the 12,234 men and 804 women registered in Yr. 2014.

Comparative Demographics of Registered NRI Voters

Table showing NRI voters by the year

Although the numbers are encouraging, the bigger barrier is being able to go to India at the time of elections and be able to personally cast ones vote in their registered constituency. As of today, while the NRI voter can still register abroad, he has to come in person to his constituency and cast his ballot personally. Only military personnel are allowed to vote through proxy. As per the numbers declared by the Election Commission, only 0.06% of the 13,039 registered NRI voters actually voted in the past.

To register participate in the elections coming our way, find out how you can register as a voter being a NRI.