Kerala: After the Election Commission’s announcement that the Non-Resident Indians (NRI) would not be allowed to vote by postal ballots in the upcoming elections in five states, residents of the Malappuram district in Kerala have demanded that NRIs be allowed to elect their representatives.
NRIs, whose names are on the voter list, are generally allowed to exercise their right to vote.
The Election Commission had earlier announced that the facility to vote by postal ballots, through which voters can cast their votes from anywhere without going to the polling booth, for NRIs would not be extended for the upcoming elections in Assam, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Kerala and West Bengal.
Anas Kolmanna, a returnee from Abu Dhabi, claimed that over 35 lakh people from the state go to foreign countries to earn their livelihood. Around seven lakh of those people belong to the Malapuram district, which has 16 assembly constituencies.
A senior officer of the Election Commission office in Malapuram district said that they have allowed issuing postal ballots to voters in the ‘Absentee Voter’ category, which included 80-plus voters, the differently-abled, the COVID-19-positive, and service voters.
However, this facility is not applicable to NRIs, he clarified.
As many as 4,02,498 people have applied for the postal ballot.
In the upcoming Kerala elections, 9,49,161 people are eligible to apply for postal votes while 8,87,699 forms have been distributed. Kannur had the highest number of applicants at 42,214. The lowest number of applicants was in Wayanad district at 7,606.
The Malappuram district has as many as 31,493 applicants.
Jiyas’ Muhammad, a teacher in Saudi Arabia who has returned to India four months ago, said, “Voting rights for NRIs were introduced only in 2011, through an amendment to the Representation of the People Act 1950 but till now, nothing has been done for them to participate the biggest event of democracy.”
“The Election Commission has allowed postal ballot system for various people but not for NRIs,” he questioned.
Kolmanna added that both the Centre and the state government have done nothing for people overseas, leading to them feeling ignored. Jiyas Muhammad, a teacher from Saudi Arabia, who returned to India four months ago, demanded that NRIs be guaranteed the right to cast their vote through ballots and participate in major events of forming the government.
“The Election Commission had also proposed extending postal ballots to overseas electors last year but the government did not clear it,” he said.
The elections in Kerala will be held on April 6 while the counting of votes will take place on May 2.