A Bill that allows non-resident Indians to vote in India’s general elections has been given clearance by the Union Cabinet and will be introduced in Parliament soon for approval. [Link]
My views on voting rights to non-resident Indians are simple and to put it straight up front – I think NRIs should not be allowed to vote. Voting, for starters, decides the course that ‘mainland’ India takes every 5 years. This also means that the lives of a billion-plus people depend directly on this foremost activity (and duty, actually).
So what is actually supposed to be an activity of deep significance, can end up as nothing but a symbolic expression of ‘love’ or ‘patriotism’ when NRIs get to vote. NRIs, it can be safely said, are ‘another country’. Yes, they are Indians.
But voting and deciding the governing leaders of a place they do not live in (or don’t intend to, in many cases, for the rest of their lives) is offering too much power, minus any responsibility or accountability. No matter how much NRIs argue in favour of voting in India, they will find it difficult to justify not being accountable in all aspects, be it benefitting or suffering from the peoples’ choice of leaders.
The basic point I attempt to make in this argument is that if you do not live in the place, then it is unwise of you to play a role in hugely significant activities like general elections. NRIs contribute to the growth and rise of India in several ways, and it would be of continual benefit to India if they continued to impact the mainland in their own noble ways, ways that directly contribute to the Indian economy.
Voting, like Bollywood movies or cricket matches, isn’t an area where the quintessential NRI can chest-thump his/her ‘love’ for India (feelings usually linked with traditions, culture and the usual Bollywood/cricket). Again, it can be said that this love is a mere impulse, a basic feeling. It may last for long, but it does not mean much.
If emotions were to decide national policy, then India will be known as a ‘goodwill-God’ (of course, complemented by the usual widespread poverty, unemployment, poor state of public health, corruption etc). But the job, fortunately, of the Government is to ensure the well-being and prosperity of all her people.
NRIs can make several differences, no matter how small. Remittances and investments are strong areas of contribution, as is tourism. Something as simple as talking positively about India to their foreign friends and encouraging them to visit the country can also go a long way. Fortunately, NRIs already do all this. And much more.
Voting, however, may not be a wise idea.