With a Bill to grant voting rights (by proxy) to NRIs due to be introduced soon in Parliament, and Rahul Gandhi belatedly beginning to follow Prime Minister Narendra Modi in sincerely wooing the Indian diaspora, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) seems to have decided to buttress Modi's efforts in tapping this vital 'international constituency' of Indian electorates.
With a clear eye on the next Lok Sabha election to be held in 2019, the RSS has already seized a big opportunity by huddling together the visiting PIOs (Persons of Indian Origin) from 23 countries, who attended the PIO Parliamentarian Conference in New Delhi on 9 January.
The PIO parliamentarians and mayors held discussions with RSS, on Wednesday, in the national capital on various issues through which ties between India and the countries where they live can be strengthened.
This seems to be an extension of the prime minister's focus on the strong Indian diaspora, a constituency he has consistently pursued since the time he assumed office. Now these further attempts to reach out to them will definitely come handy in swaying the opinion of the 2.5 crore NRIs who are likely to get voting rights before the next general election in 2019.
Though RSS hasn't officially declared as much, the exercise does hint towards such an intention. The Antar Rashtriya Sahyog Parishad (ARSP) — a non-profit, non-governmental and non-political body that closely functions on the principles of the RSS — organised an event on Wednesday, where discussions were held with PIO Parliamentarians during couple of sessions.
“During interactions with Parliamentarians and Mayors of Indian origin but residing abroad and serving in their respective countries, we focussed on what can be done for Bharat and what our nation expects from them. The other key areas of interaction were on international relations and politics. We’re also looking on how Bharat can have its strong presence in the UN,” an RSS source told Firstpost on condition of anonymity.
Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), a subsidiary of RSS for supporting and mobilising Hindus living outside India and active in 34 countries at present, is playing an instrumental role in connecting with the NRIs.
Till now, some NRIs played a vital role during general and Assembly elections by visiting their respective states and lobbying on behalf of political parties in a bid to influence local voters. During the recently held Gujarat Assembly election, a large number of NRIs visited the state to mobilise voters. A similar trend could be seen during Punjab election. But now they could be turned into an electorate themselves, once the Bill is passed.
ARSP secretary general Shyam Parande on his Facebook page has mentioned, “Bharat is proud of its diaspora for their role in being connected with the country of their origin while contributing to the development of the country of their adoption."
The ARSP is also considering forming an international group that would connect with the Indian diaspora and help in disseminating the organisation's message to the Indian community living abroad.
“If the voting rights to NRIs is granted ahead of 2019, it’ll be helpful for the ruling BJP to garner a strong support from diaspora. Modi has emerged as a strong, popular face abroad and there are lakhs of NRIs, besides PIO Parliamentarians who want to lend support to him. These Parliamentarians and NRIs have a strong influence in their respective native places in India, which may be a city or village. By, proxy voting, they will also be able to mobilise the local voters,” one of the participants in the ARSP meet told Firstpost.
“One of the important areas of discussions was on how to project India’s strong image abroad, as the fastest growing economy in the world, rather than showing it in poor light,” the participant added.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on 8 January met Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin in Bahrain, where he underlined two threats that India has been facing: One unemployment and the other Indian government dividing the country on the basis of caste and religion. His statement received flak from the BJP. Prior to this Rahul had visited Berkley in the US to connect with Indian diaspora there.
Updated Date: Jan 10, 2018 19:54 PM