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Thursday, June 1, 2023

Lok Sabha passes Election Reforms – voter ID to be linked to Aadhar

The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 amid the Opposition’s strong demand for more consultation on it.

This Bill seeks to link electoral rolls to the Aadhaar number, allowing electoral registration officers to ask for Aadhaar numbers of applicants wanting to register as voters to establish their identity.

Replying to the debate, Law and Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju said that this Bill will bring important electoral reforms in the country. We wanted the entire House to participate in the debate but they have been protesting and sloganeering in the House.

He added that this Bill was brought after wide consultations with the Election Commission and also with the state governments and it will purify the electoral process in the country.

He said that the government has brought the Bill after the recommendation of the Standing Committee Report of the Department of Personnel and Training, Law and Justice, consisting of members of all political parties. The protesting members have either not gone through the draft Bill or are deliberately showing ignorance of the new provisions.

“The voting age was lowered from 21 years to 18 years in 1987 but the qualifying date was kept as January 1 every year only for getting listed in the voter list, Now, under the new amendment, there will four dates such as January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 every year so that the any eligible person can get them enrolled once they attain the age of 18 years,” Rijiju informed the House.

He appealed to the members to pass the Bill unanimously as it was in the interest of the voters and the country.

Earlier,debating the Bill, the Congress Party floor leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury asked why the government was in a hurry to bring this Bill as many MPs have requested the government to forward it to a Parliamentary Committee.

“The way Bill was introduced in the morning and being passed in such a hurry today only was not correct and it should be sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee,” Chowdhury said.

DMK member TR Baalu said that this Bill needs more public opinion while BSP MP Ritesh Pandey said that this Bill needed more consultation.

While debating on the Bill, TMC MP Kalyan Banerjee said, “the current Law Minister is killing democracy.”

BJP member Nishikant Dube while speaking on the Bill said that the Congress has always tried to demean the Constitutional institutions in the country and they made the former Election Commissioner of India a Member of Parliament. They even got a Nepalese citizen elected to this House on fake citizenship documents.

This Bill will prevent the Bangladeshi and Nepali refugees from getting enlisted in the Indian voter list. Parties like the Congress and the TMC are objecting to this Bill as this will impact their vote banks, he said.

Opposition members Asaduddin Owaisi and Supriya Sule asked the government to bring a fresh bill after more consultations while RSP MP NK Premchandran told the Chair that they were not even allowed to seek a division on this Bill.

The step of linking Voter IDs with Aadhar is welcome because it will prevent duplication of the same voter in different voter lists, a common issue when voters change residence or migrate for work. Before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Sharad Pawar had asked his party workers to take advantage of the multi-phase polling in the state and vote twice – first at their hometowns and then at places of work.

Another aspect of our electoral process that needs attention is improved coordination between all State Election Commission, down to District Election Offices, using digital technology so that integrity of voter lists is maintained, and ‘sudden’ additions/deletions are eliminated.

But it is doubtful if this will weed out illegal immigrants enrolled in voter lists, as most of them have already managed to procure Aadhar, PAN and other govt. IDs through fraudulent means and with assistance of ‘secular’ political parties who rely on these illegals as votebanks. Recent cases showing how easily criminal gangs are able to arrange identity documents, including even passports with fake Hindu identities for Bangladeshi and Rohingya Muslims, indicate that this is a serious national security risk. The best solution to that problem is to conduct a nation-wide NRC, with focus on pockets where these illegal immigrants are known to settle.

(With IANS inputs)

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