Should NRIs get voting rights?

January 10, 2010

USA-INDIA/Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seems to have set the ball rolling for granting voting rights to Non Resident Indians.

“I recognise the legitimate desire of Indians living abroad to exercise their franchise and to have a say in who governs India,” Singh said at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas meet in New Delhi.

According to reports, the law ministry is working on amending the Representation of the People Act to include those living overseas as citizens.

While seeking the active involvement of NRIs with their home country is the aim of this move, yet for many, the very fact that they left the country to seek life elsewhere doesn’t seem to shore up their right to vote.

Is it fair to people who are living in the country itself?

It can be said that people who are residents have the maximum stake in who should rule the country.
Seeking a green card is the dream of many a middle-class Indian living abroad but should that be coupled with voting rights as well?

Moreover, it is not clear whether giving voting rights to NRIs will make them more involved with politics and other issues at home, as the PM intends.

The Indian middle class, after all, is known for not voting enthusiastically in elections.

They have occasionally been dubbed as ‘RNIs’ or ‘Resident Non Indians’ for living in gated communities and being cut off from the realities of the real India.

In defence of giving voting rights to NRIs it may even be said that such ‘RNIs’ don’t vote yet have full citizen rights.

If the change proposed by Manmohan Singh goes through it would definitely be in tandem with globalisation and the blurry notions of belonging and origin many have developed.

But would it be fair to those who live here and would it achieve its aims?


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Do they really care to have a stake in the country’s governance apart from the people they can network with during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and the NRI accounts they can open?

They can come back and make the changes here and now by contributing to the reverse brain-drain and what not!

Posted by Thinkagain | Report as abusive

Though it may be fair not to give voting rights to OCIs (Overseas Citizens of India), I think it makes complete sense to give voting rights to the NRIs who still hold a full; valid Indian passport.
The OCIs are NRIs who have been issued with the Overseas Citizen Passport of India and hold an additional passport of the foreign country in which they are currently living / are citizens of.
I dont quite understand and can’t see an obvious reason that if an NRI is not an OCI (hence; holds just one and only one Passport – that of India), then why should he be debarred from voting and in what ways is it likely to be unfair “to people who are living in the country itself”?
I very well appreciate Manmohan Singh government’s endeavour to grant voting rights to NRIs.

Posted by Rupam_S | Report as abusive

Rupam – I think you are wrong. If you hold Indian passport you have the right to vote and stand in elections as you are still an Indian.
In general, voting rights/election standing rights for NRIs(OCIs)must not be given as it will make the politics even worse because of the money power of OCIs.

Posted by amma | Report as abusive 10/01/nris-being-given-voting-rights.htm l  /indians-abroad/NRIs-to-get-voting-righ ts-by-next-LS-polls-PM/articleshow/54255 61.cms s-may-get-voting-rights-by-next-polls_13 32583 tion=com_content&view=article&id=101&Ite mid=104&limitstart=1

Hi Amma.
Many thanks for your response.
Perhaps, if you may please go through the following links and let me and other readers know, what you make out of it ?
From what I knew (I may be wrong) and what I gather from the aforementioned links as well: an NRI, who holds an Indian Passport doesn’t get voting rights as
his name gets removed from the electoral rolls. An OCI holder on the other hand cannot really be treated as an Indian citizen, hence it doesn’t make enough sense to grant voting rights to the latter.
So if someone may please come up with what exactly has been set out constitutionally for NRIs and OCIs.

Posted by Rupam | Report as abusive

The decision to grant voting rights to NRIs makes look the class differences in India starker.It would spell doom for democracy which is already held at ransom by the local elite. Now it will be the turn of rapacious transnational elite that is bent on control of resources and political process back home. I appeal to the political class as well as civil society to oppose the ill-conceived move.


Posted by kottusekhar | Report as abusive

The author of this article is merely ignorant of the terms that he ought to have used in his article’s title.

An NRI is a “Non-Resident Indian” — she is an Indian who is, for whatever reasons, living outside the borders of India for a prolonged period of time. The contention for voting rights is not for NRIs whose voting rights was never revoked. In fact, if an NRI so wishes, he may go to the nearest Indian consulate or embassy and cast his vote.

The question is that of OCIs — Overseas Citizens of India. An OCI is one who has renunciated Indian citizenship and has become the citizen of a different country. For all practical purposes an OCI card grants it’s holder all rights that a citizen has, except that he may not vote, or buy plantation or agricultural land. To be candid, while the OCI card does mention that she may not buy plantations or agricultural land, it makes no mention as to the the individual’s voting rights — it is almost implied.

Posted by Awesomeness… | Report as abusive