The Unique Identification Aadhaar card has emerged as a key poll issue in the Bangalore South constituency where Congress candidate, former UIDAI chief Nandan Nilekani, is up against BJP’s five-time MP Ananth Kumar. This comes after a Supreme Court order reiterated that an Aadhaar card is not a prerequisite for public services, and a sting operation by a news portal revealed illegal immigrants could obtain Aadhaar cards as well.
Kumar used this to attack Nilekani who, as UIDAI chief, had conceived and supervised the roll out of Aadhaar cards for 60 crore people.
At election rallies, Kumar has labelled initiative the ‘Niraadhaar programme’, and accused the UPA of siphoning funds under its name.
Nilekani, on his part, accused Kumar of attempting to sabotage a government programme for political mileage. Nilekani has also filed a complaint with the Election Commission and the Press Council of India “on the lies and omissions being spread by vested interests and by Kumar” on the Aadhaar issue.
“The Aadhaar card does not address security and socio-economic issues. It gives scope for illegal immigrants and anti-national agents to legally enrol in the system, depriving real beneficiaries. If the BJP comes to power, we will not only scrap it but also undertake an investigation on the spending of several thousand crores of rupees on the project by the UPA government,” Kumar said during an address.
In a blog post, Nilekani retaliated saying, “I think the dirty tricks of my opponent makes his desperation apparent. Kumar is trying to gain mileage by abusing a government programme which he was himself promoting only a few months ago. He asked just one question on Aadhaar the entire time he was in Parliament. And now, why this sudden concern?”
“He is part of the pro-corruption, anti-development forces who are trying to discredit a powerful anti-corruption effort,” Nilekani added.
Kumar claimed the apex court order had vindicated BJP’s stand on the issue.
“There are too many flaws in the way information is collected under the system and how it may be used exposing citizens to the risk of privacy violation. The BJP had raised these concerns but the UPA government… wasted over Rs 30,000 crore,” he said.
Nilekani countered Kumar’s arguments saying the SC order on Monday was in response to a plea by the UIDAI itself since the agency did not want to share biometric data for a criminal investigation. He said the UIDAI had never termed Aadhaar mandatory.
“It is sad that Ananth Kumar has to resort to such desperate tactics. He is doing this because he has no good record to defend,” Nilekani said.