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No clarity on campaigning by NRIs, EC writes to MEA

assembly elections Updated: Jan 24, 2017 12:08 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Punjab polls

Election Commission of India(HT File Photo)

With questions being raised on non-resident Indians (NRIs) with roots in Punjab campaigning ahead of assembly polls in the state, the Election Commission of India (EC) has reportedly written to the Union ministry of external affairs (MEA) seeking clarification.

Sources said the EC has asked the ministry to clarify whether Indian citizens living in foreign countries and those with roots in India but having foreign citizenship can take part in campaigning for political parties in the fray.

Video: Harsimrat backs Amarinder for asking EC to send back NRI volunteers of AAP from Punjab

“The law is silent on this. Still, to know what is to be done, we have flagged the issue with the MEA,” said an EC official.

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In the absence of any specific law, the Punjab chief electoral officer (CEO), meanwhile, has decided to allow NRIs to campaign in the state, but with a caveat: they must leave Punjab 48 hours before the state goes to the polls, scheduled on February 4.

“Only voters can remain in the state... If anyone doesn’t listen to our appeals (to leave the state), we’ll ask the police to take action against them,” said CEO VK Singh on Monday. The poll official had moved the EC last week to seek clarification on the matter after 167 supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) reportedly landed in Punjab from Canada.

The latest complaint against the AAP came from Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh, even as the Congress has claimed that 400 NRIs of Punjabi origin are campaigning for it in the state. In the complaint lodged with chief election commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi on Sunday, Capt said the AAP has inducted more than 27,000 persons with roots in Punjab, including foreign nationals, to campaign for its candidates.

“These persons are going from door to door and some foreign nationals are even promising to take youths abroad for jobs,” he had stated, demanding all such people to be moved out of Punjab 48 hours before the polls. Capt, too, had to cancel his programmes in Canada in April last year, after the local authorities disapproved of “foreign political campaigning” by a non-native.

“We have roots in Punjab, how can anyone send us out of our homes?” questioned Joban Randhawa, AAP’s overseas youth convener, who has been campaigning in Amritsar along with 30 other NRIs. The party — which claims to have more than 3,500 NRIs campaigning for it in Punjab — will get further boost with more than 100 NRI supporters from the UK landing in Delhi on Tuesday, said Randhawa.

“We don’t have to wait for the results... we became victorious the day Amarinder Singh complained against us. This shows his frustration,” said Randhawa, claiming NRIs will prove to be the “X-factor” in the AAP’s win.

Lately, overseas units of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) are also moving to the poll-bound state. “About 25 of us are reaching Punjab on January 26. We will visit all important constituencies, especially Lambi and Jalalabad, to campaign for our leaders,” said Mohan Singh Khatra, president of the SAD’s US east coast unit. Khatra said youth workers of the party from the US have already reached Punjab.