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Lukewarm response from NRIs for LS poll

Lukewarm response from NRIs for LS poll
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Is the timing of elections in the hot summer season proving to be a deterrent to Telugu NRIs in countries like US, UK, Australia to come to their home town and cast their vote?

Hyderabad: Is the timing of elections in the hot summer season proving to be a deterrent to Telugu NRIs in countries like US, UK, Australia to come to their home town and cast their vote?

Is the Election Commission's condition for the physical presence of Overseas or NRI voters in their hometown and cast vote in the nearest polling station is proving to be a big disadvantage?

Yes is the answer from Telugu NRIs to the above two questions and it is no surprise that a lukewarm response is being witnessed from NRI voters to the Election Commission's appeal to apply for Form 6 (A) online and get a voter ID card so that they can exercise their franchise in April 11 election.

Section 20A of the Representation of People Act, 1950 accords voting rights to Indian citizens residing in other countries.

Any NRI citizen is entitled to have his/ her name registered in the electoral roll as 'overseas electors' in the constituency in one's place of residence in India as mentioned in one's passport.

However, if non-resident Indians have acquired citizenship of another country and renounced their Indian citizenship, they are not eligible to vote.

The Telangana election office received just 585 applications from NRIs hailing from Telangana and they have to be scrutinised before deciding on how many of them are eligible to be given voter ID cards and this final eligible number would be declared on March 25.

In the voters' list published by the Telangana CEO on February 22, the total number of voters stood at 2.95 crore in Telangana, out of which the Overseas/ NRI voters are at a very low of 1,122.

The updated total number of voters list would be declared on March 25 by the authorities and with fresh applications received the final figure of NRI voters (updated) is likely to be in the region of 1,500.

Of the total 1.31 crore population of NRIs across the world, a good number of them belong to both Telugu states. However, the very less NRI voters' number is an indication of how reluctant is the Indian diaspora to cast their franchise in elections.

According to Prakash Kapila, a Telugu NRI from New Jersey in the USA, the timing of 2019 elections (in mid-April) proved to be a big dampener. "Majority of NRI families from the USA, UK and Australia don't prefer to come in hot summer here because it will be quite difficult for families to adjust to the high temperatures.

The distance is so long from India that we have to travel with the whole family and the travel expenses itself cost Rs 3 to Rs 4 lakh (for to and fro tickets from the US)," he said.

Prakash said that if NRIs are allowed to vote in Indian embassies in various countries instead of physically present condition, a big change could be seen. Almost all eligible NRI voters would prefer to cast their vote in elections without fail, he stressed.

Prakash added that some of his friends went all the way from the US to Telangana in last winter as the assembly elections were held on December 7, which was very convenient for families to get acclimatised to the weather at that time.

Some of them planned their home visit in November-December so that they could cast their vote.

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