New Delhi: A delegation of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Wednesday met Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) V.S. Sampath and asked him to ensure that non-resident Indians (NRIs) are able to vote in the Lok Sabha polls.
NRIs were given voting rights in 2010 through an amendment in the Representation of People Act, 1951.
The convenor of BJP's NRI cell Vijay Jolly said a majority of the NRIs are, however, unable to vote as they have to travel all the way to India to exercise their franchise.
In a letter submitted to the CEC, the BJP leaders sought arrangements like postal ballots or voting through Indian missions abroad for NRIs.
"Due to their professional and family circumstances, it is difficult for a large majority of the NRI community to travel to India specifically for the purpose of exercising their voting right. We don't think it is practical that NRIs would travel back to India just to vote," the BJP leader said in his letter.
"As a result of these difficulties, the right to vote for the majority of NRIs has remained only on paper," he said.
The BJP also quoted figures saying that out of about two million Malayalis living abroad, only 8,820 NRIs had their names on the electoral rolls, of which only 4,639 turned up to cast their votes on April 13, 2011, when the last assembly elections were held in Kerala.
Jolly added that the present government policy is acting as a deterrent to exercising the right to vote by NRIs.
"There are other feasible modes by which NRIs could exercise their valuable right... through postal ballot, online voting, or voting at an Indian Mission abroad," the letter suggested.
The party urged the commission to "take appropriate steps" for "effective provisions for NRI voting rights for the forthcoming (Lok Sabha) elections of 2014".