The linking of Aadhaar and voter ID cards will be "voluntary and not compulsory", Law Minister Kiren Rijiju told NDTV Tuesday, amid spiraling protests against the controversial Election Laws (Amendment) Bill and the equally controversial manner in which it was rushed through Parliament
"It would be voluntary and not compulsory to link voter ID card with Aadhaar. Even if a citizen does not have an Aadhaar card, his name will not be deleted from electoral rolls. If you are above 18 and your name is in the voting list... then you are a voter," Mr Rijiju told NDTV.
"The Election Laws Bill is necessary to make the electoral process clean and tidy... Right now, one voter gets his/her name included in the electoral roll at three or four places. It is very important to remove those who are fake voters," the minister said.
"The opposition's argument is absolutely wrong... they have no basis" he stressed.
Yesterday too Mr Rijiju batted for the bill, telling news agency ANI the opposition had been asked to participate and voice their opinions in the discussion, but instead they created chaos.
However, furious opposition leaders lashed out at the government for the way in which the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill was passed - in the Lok Sabha on Monday evening and in the Rajya Sabha today - in the course of a few hours and without any real debate on possible flaws.
Congress MP Mallikarjun Kharge, the Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House, said the Election Laws Bill had been passed without "discussion or debate"; he called it "mockery of our democracy".
Trinamool MP Derek O'Brien was suspended for the rest of the winter session after he was accused of throwing the rule book at the Rajya Sabha Chair during protests over the bill.
Speaking to NDTV shortly afterwards, Mr O'Brien repeatedly highlighted how the bill (and others in the past) had been pushed past the opposition MPs, and red-flagged the "murder of Parliament".
In the Rajya Sabha earlier Mr O'Brien had cited the rule book to argue that the bill was being pushed through without enough notice to leaders of opposition parties.
Harivansh Narayan Singh, the Chair at the time, said the shorter notice was allowed under the rules.
The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill allows electoral registration officers to seek the Aadhaar number of people who want to register as voters "for the purpose of establishing identity".
Thus, the possibility of electors whose names appear more than once can be removed, government sources have told news agency PTI. This will help "cleaning" the electoral roll and facilitate voter registration at locations at which they are 'ordinarily resident', the sources added.
The bill also seeks to make statutes gender-neutral by substituting the term 'wife' with 'spouse' to allow husbands of service voters to vote from their wives' duty stations.
It also provides four qualifying dates - January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 - in a year for registration of voters, instead of a single qualifying date - January 1.
With input from ANI, PTI