Bengalis living abroad may vote in assembly polls

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

KOLKATA - For the first time, Bengalis settled abroad will be able to cast votes in the West Bengal assembly elections, provided they are physically present in the state during the polls, officials said Tuesday.

“The decision was taken when the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2010, was passed in November 2010. It is going to be implemented for the first time during the assembly polls in West Bengal. The order has already been issued by the central government and will reach our office within one or two days,” said West Bengal’s Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta.

According to an estimate, there are about 11 million NRIs abroad, but there is no accurate information on the total number of NRIs from West Bengal.

The Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2010, makes it clear that the NRIs would have to register as voters and be “physically present” with their passport on the polling day to exercise their franchise.

“There is no provision for postal balloting. Every citizen of India staying in a foreign country, who has not acquired citizenship of a foreign country and has completed 18 years of age as on January 1 of the year, can apply to get registered in the electoral roll,” said Gupta.

He added that a separate electoral roll will be prepared by the commission for the NRIs, though their process of voting will be exactly the same as ordinary voters.

NRI voters will have to submit the application directly to the electoral registration officer of the constituency within which the place of residence is mentioned in the passport. The application can either be submitted directly or sent by post. According to the Representation of the People Act, once a person is registered as a voter, he automatically has the right to contest polls also.

The entire process will be carried out through the Indian embassies located in different countries.

The visually challenged people will also be able to cast their vote as the Election Commission has decided to provide braille ballots to them.

“We started with the process in earlier elections but we could not provide all the visually challenged people with braille ballots. Now we have decided to distribute 10 such ballots to each of the polling booths,” said Deputy Chief Electoral Officer Saibal Barman.

“It is a mammoth task to check the proofs of braille ballots for 294 assembly constituencies in the state before the notification of election date by the EC (Election Commission). But we are sure to complete our jobwell in time,” he said.

Filed under: Politics

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