Despite their significant involvement in the propaganda, publicity, perception-building and raising funds for candidates, the non-resident Punjabis seem not interested in the online facility to get themselves registered as voters.
Most of them want online voting facility for “actual involvement” in the poll process back home. “If we can vote online, you will see the difference. Almost every Punjabi who has not accepted a foreign citizenship will vote,” said Yadinder Singh Sidhu from Sangrur, currently living in Surrey, Canada.
The election commission’s online campaign launched two months ago to get registered NRIs (who have not surrendered India’s citizenship and passport) as voters could attract only 95 individuals till now.
Before that, in all 178 had registered themselves as voters online.
“273 non-resident voters is not an encouraging number when there are lakhs of Punjabis living in foreign countries,” said a functionary in the chief electoral office, Punjab.
Maximum number (23) of NRIs from a district who got themselves registered belong to Nawanshahr. Majority of districts have negligible registrations and some are yet to open an account.
Non-resident Punjabis could register as voter online on national voter service portal by filling Form 6-A by posting copies of passport and a visa.
“Many living in foreign countries are not willing to come to Punjab just to cast vote. Even if we don’t vote, non residents are still will play vital role in the elections. We build perception in favour of the good candidates and parties,” said Hardeep Singh from Brampton (Canada), demanding online voting rights.
An officer of election commission said, “We have given an option to get registered and want more and more people to avail the benefit.” On the facility to casting a vote online, he said Supreme Court had issued a directive in 2015, but it was yet to be cleared by Parliament.
“We are ready with our system, and after the bill for amendment in People’s Representation Act is cleared by the Parliament, the voters living outside India will get the right to vote online,” said Punjab chief electoral officer VK Singh.
The expenditure on assembly polls in state is expected to touch Rs 200 crore this time against about Rs 140 crore in 2012.