Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi has said the government decision to allow NRIs to vote in the country’s elections, the rules for which the Law Ministry announced on Thursday, will benefit over five million Indians living abroad.

He told The Hindu over phone that only those NRIs holding Indian passports, and not those holding citizenship of other countries, would be able to vote in the parliamentary and Assembly elections. This would mostly benefit those in the Gulf countries, where a majority of NRIs worked and where local citizenship was not possible.

“This will also help lakhs Indian students studying in the US, Britain, Australia and other countries to vote and contest in elections back home,” Mr. Ravi noted.

He, however, pointed out that only those who are physically present in India on the day of the election and show up at the polling booth in the place of residence mentioned in their passports can vote.

Mr. Ravi pointed out that online voting and postal balloting would not be available now. “It is up to the Election Commission to decide on these,” he said.

The enrolment of NRI voters would begin with the notification to be issued by the Election Commission. “Every overseas elector, who is not otherwise disqualified for registration and wants to be registered on the address mentioned in his passport may make an application to the officer concerned directly or send it by post,” the Law Ministry said in a notification on Thursday. The applicants should send their personal details and copies of their passports along with the applications. The passport copies should be attested by the Indian mission in the country where the applicant lives, the Law Ministry said.

Mr. Ravi, who has been a champion of the NRI vote ever since he took over as the Overseas Indian Affairs Ministry, recalled that this had been a long-standing demand of NRIs in the Gulf. He noted that there were 1.3 million Indians currently living in Saudi Arabia and 1.8 million in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Parliament had last September made an amendment to the Representation of People’s Act, enabling NRIs holding Indian passport to vote and contest in the elections in their motherland.

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