The government might have put Aadhaar on the fast track and made it mandatory for a host of services in recent weeks but the move also represents the latest twist to the BJP’s changing stance over India’s largest identity scheme.
When the BJP was in Opposition, senior party leaders relentlessly targeted Aadhaar and dubbed it as a fraud scheme, asking questions about its security.
Raising the red flag against the Congress-led UPA’s UIDAI bill, which aimed to give statutory backing to the Unique Identity scheme, the BJP did not allow the legislation to be passed in Parliament.
But after coming to power, the NDA government brought an amended Aadhaar bill as a money bill to avoid Rajya Sabha’s veto where the Opposition is in majority.
There is also a case pending before the Supreme Court challenging the government’s decision to turn Aadhaar bill into a money bill.
On Wednesday, finance minister Arun Jaitley said that an Aadhaar card could become the sole identifier for a person in future. “A stage may come that the unique identity will become the only card,” Jaitley said, replying to the debate on finance bill. He later underlined that its biometric features act as “anti-evasion” measures. “There are many countries where such a situation exists. There is a social security number in America and in India it (Aadhaar) could be the counterpart,” the finance minister added.
Biju Janata Dal’s floor leader Bhartruhari Mahtab opposed the government’s decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for filing of income tax return from this year as well as for applying for PAN. “So you are forcing the citizen,” Mahtab remarked. “Yes, we are,” replied Jaitley.
But in 2012, BJP’s national spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi had slammed Aadhaar as a “fraud” programme and demanded a probe. “This is a dangerous programme to regularise the illegal stay of migrants in the country. Is Bharat Mata so open to illegal migrants? The Aadhaar is also in contravention of Supreme Court directives. The entire biometric data of people enrolled has been stored outside the country,” Lekhi had said.
Ananth Kumar, now the parliamentary affairs minister of the NDA government, had said that Aadhaar’s contribution was to provide citizenship to illegal immigrants. “If you illegally enter other countries, you are shot at or put in jail. But if anyone illegally enters India, he is given citizenship. This is the contribution of Aadhaar. Half of Assam is occupied by Bangladeshis. Aadhaar is the biggest fraud in the country,” Ananth Kumar said.
In 2010, at a function in New Delhi, Smriti Irani, who is now the Union textile minister, had said, “The reality is that the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010, which gives sanction to this particular card was rejected by the standing committee on finance.”