Rajat Sharma

Linking of Aadhar with voter ID will eliminate bogus voting

akbThe Lok Sabha, on Monday, passed, amid strong protests from opposition, a major electoral reforms bill which provides for voluntary linkage of Aadhar card to voter’s identity card. Opposition parties demanded that the bill be referred to the joint select committee for scrutiny.

Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said, the bill is an important electoral reform and a parliamentary standing committee has already backed the linkage of voter’s I-card with Aadhar. He said, this would curb the menace of multiple enrolment of the same person as voter in different places. The bill seeks to create a legal framework for linking electoral data with Aadhar card, he said.

Opposing the bill, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, “you cannot bulldoze a major legislative document which has several infirmities”. Another Congress leader Manish Tewari said, the Aadhar Act “is very explicit. It is intended for targeted delivery of financial and other subsidies and benefits, whereas voting is a legal right.” AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi said, this law can be used to “profile and disenfranchise voters”. The CPI(M) said, this new bill has the danger of violating both secrecy of the vote by undermining the principle of secret ballot and also violating the fundamental right to privacy of the voters.

Kiren Rijiju said, the apprehensions being voiced by the opposition over infringement of privacy rights by such linkage are “baseless”. He said, the linking of Aadhaar with voter I-card is voluntary and not mandatory. The Supreme Court verdict of September 26, 2018 upholding the constitutional validity of Aadhaar Act, while ensuring privacy rights, is being misinterpreted, he said. In August, 2019, the Election Commission had proposed that the government should amend election laws to empower electoral registration officers to seek Aadhaar numbers of existing and new voters, “for the purpose of establishing identity”.

Rijiju said, the bill already has a provision which says that no application for enrolling as voter may be rejected in the absence of Aadhaar as long as the voter provides alternate documents as may be prescribed by the Election Commission. This move to link Aadhar with voter I-card will end bogus voting and make the electoral rolls credible, he said.

One should realize that this bill has not been brought in a hurry. This issue of linkage has been under discussion at various forums for a long time. The opposition parties, particularly the Congress, had demanded linkage of voter ID with Aadhaar in the past. Now they seem to have reversed their stand.

Let me illustrate one fact. In April,2018, the Madhya Pradesh Congress had written to the then Chief Election Commissioner demanding linkage of electoral rolls with Aadhaar to check fake voting before the assembly polls. The state Congress had then alleged that there were 30-40,000 fake voters in almost every constituency and that the details of nearly 45 lakh voters needed to be verified and probed. Similarly, in 2019, the Maharashtra NCP had suggested linking voter ID with Aadhaar to check bogus voting and the then chief minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis had agreed with the NCP’s suggestion at that time.

Multiple enrolment of the same voter at different places is one of the major problems in electoral data base management. One of the reasons could be that voters frequently change their residences and get enrolled in their new places without getting their previous enrolment deleted. With the linkage to Aadhaar, this problem of multiple enrolment can be solved easily. Once voter ID is linked with Aadhaar, the electoral roll data system will immediately alert the electoral registration authorities about previous enrolment of the voter, whenever one applies for new registration. This will help in cleaning up the entire electoral roll data base and bogus voting can be eliminated, once and for all.

The fears that are being voiced about violation of privacy rights by the opposition seem to be unfounded. A vote cast by an elector inside the polling booth always remains a secret. Already, the Centre and states have used the Aadhaar as the base for eliminating millions of bogus ration cards across India, and names of people who were skimming off subsidies under different heads have been eliminated. Linking of Aadhaar will not violate the privacy of an individual. On the other hand, it will curb the menace of bogus voting in one go.

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