New Delhi,Manan Kumar(dna): Amid strong objections by Congress and opposition in the Rajya Sabha against the move to give NRIs the right to exercise their franchise by e-postal ballots or through proxy voting without consulting them, the BJP government yielded to their demand to convene an all party to discuss the issue before taking a decision.
Replying to a calling attention motion moved by Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda made it clear that the government was acting on the Election Commission report regarding voting rights of over one crore NRIs and not as directed by the Supreme Court and also accepted their demand to consider granting voting rights to domestic migrant labour along with the NRIs.
During the heated debate, Opposition members charged the government for taking up the matter in the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s directions, with Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad saying they were not opposed to voting rights for NRIs but the way the Government has moved the proposal without discussing it with the political parties.
The Minister said the report had recommended the options of the e-postal ballot system and proxy voting and the government had submitted before the Supreme Court accepting the recommendations.
To ensure that secrecy and methodology is maintained, Gowda said “e-postal and postal ballot voting methodologies are being worked out for the voting rights of the NRIs.”
However, he agreed for an all-party meeting as demanded by several opposition parties like AIADMK, DMK, BJD, CPI, CPM, SP and JD-U.
“I (will) request Election Commision to hold all party meeting to get their feedback,” he said while adding that it was necessary for legislation on voting rights for migrant voters travelling across the country in search of work.
Initiating the debate, Azad said, “Today government has said goodbye to all consultation process. Parliament is being made aware of developments from newspaper reports. It has become the habit of the government to bypass the Parliament and the standing committees. When we object, we are being criticised.”
He voiced concern over casting of votes through e-postal ballots, saying they are prone to hacking and cited the recent example of US President Barack Obama’s e-mail account being hacked.
He also accused the government of adopting a discriminatory approach in granting voting rights to NRIs through e-postal ballots but ignoring the rights of migrant workers.
Bringing out the hazards of e ballot and proxy voting, noted lawyer KTS Tulsi of Congress said, “If there are ten million non-resident Indians, it means will be 18,000 votes per constituency and if all of them were to be given a franchise, it could significantly alter the voting pattern, and the result of elections. I want to ask the Government how is it that you are giving greater preference to non-resident Indians and lesser preference to the resident Indians and migratory labour. Is it only because they have more money? Is that the reason for discrimination?”
D Raja (CPI) described as “risky” the proposal to vote through e-postal ballots and through proxy voting. Demanding an all-party meeting to discuss the proposal, he sought to know whether arrangements would be made in emabssies abroad for NRIs to cast their votes.
Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) rejected the government proposal and charged it of doing favours to the NRI community.
He said proxy voting is prone to “fraud and cheating” referring to the rules of voting, he demanded to know if elections observers and presiding officers would be engaged abroad for NRIs to cast their votes.
Sharad Yadav (JD-U) also sought an all-party meeting to discuss the issue threadbare. A Navaneethakrishnan (AIADMK), Tiruchi Siva (DMK) and K N Balagopal (CPI-M) also demanded the all-party meeting on the matter.