By Newsgram Staff Writer
History might be in the making as Bihar braces itself to become the first state to allow non-resident Indians (NRI’s) to cast their vote in assembly elections when it goes to poll later this year.
To facilitate NRI voting in the upcoming polls through either proxy or e-postal ballot, the Election Commission is jointly working with the law ministry on a pilot project.
The necessary amendments in the Representation of People Act are expected to be made latest by the monsoon session of Parliament so that the pilot can be tested in Bihar elections, according to sources privy to the joint effort.
The Election Commission will have to constitute a new assembly by November 29.
This comes at the backdrop of the Centre accepting the poll panel’s recommendations on NRI voting, which were submitted to the Supreme Court early this year.
Under the proxy option, proposed by the EC and subsequently accepted by the law ministry, an NRI will be able to cast vote through a nominee residing in India.
Whereas, under the e-postal ballot route, the poll panel will upload the ballot paper online accessible to registered NRI through a secure password. Once downloaded and printed, the NRI can then mark his or her preferred candidate on the ballot paper. The voter will then have to self-attest the ballot paper and send it back to the returning officer by snail mail within a stipulated period.
A technical committee headed by Rajat Moona of C-DAC, the government’s research and development arm in advanced computing comprising of other technical experts, has been constituted by the EC to develop a software that will allow the commission to dispatch the ballot paper to NRI voters online.
It is still unclear whether the pilot will cover the whole of Bihar or be limited to a few constituencies. An official on condition of anonymity said, “We can decide that once the amendments come through.”
If the experiment proves to be successful, the EC will scale up the trial to other state elections and finally cover the whole country during the 2019 parliamentary elections.
Since a large number of Indians, numbering close to one crore with sixty lakh of eligible voting age, are settled abroad particularly from states such as Punjab, Kerala and Gujarat, the decision to involve the expats in the electoral process can affect their outcome substantially.
Currently Bihar houses close to 1000 NRI voters.