Rules on linking Aadhaar with voter rolls could be issued by the government soon, chief election commissioner Sushil Chandra said, adding that sharing Aadhaar’s details will be voluntary for voters, but those who do not will not have to give “sufficient reasons”.
Chandra, who leaves office on Saturday evening, also said the poll panel had played a key role in stepping up the vaccination campaign in the five states where assembly elections ended in March this year. to ensure that voters and those involved in electoral duty were safe from the coronavirus.
In an interview with PTI, he said that two major electoral reforms that have taken place under his tenure as CEC are the provision of four dates per year instead of one to register 18-year-old voters and the link to Aadhaar with voter lists to check duplicate entries in voter list.
“Previously, only January 1 each year was the deadline. We convinced the government that this reform is very essential and that these people should be registered as soon as they turn 18. With this reform now, there will be four dates in a year to register these people when they turn 18. This reform had been pending for 20 years,” Chandra said.
“The second biggest reform is Aadhaar’s linking with voters lists to check for duplicate entries. This will make the voters list pure. It will make the voters list more robust,” he said. Asked when the rules will be notified by the government, Chandra replied.
“I think very soon because we have already sent draft proposals in this regard. We have also sent the forms that need to be changed and they are at the Ministry (of law). Very soon I think they will be cleared. We’re also going to have to tone up our IT system.”
As to whether sharing Aadhaar’s details will be voluntary, he answered in the affirmative. “This will be voluntary. But voters will be required to give sufficient reason for not giving their Aadhaar number. The reason may include not having an Aadhaar or not having applied for either reason they can think of. I can’t think of any other reason,” the CEC said.
Chandra was of the opinion that sharing the Aadhaar number would help the EC to cleanse the voter list. It will also ensure that the polling committee is able to provide more services to voters through its communication system, he added. “If we know the voter more clearly, then we can provide more services such as the date of the elections and the booth (details) on their phone numbers… We should know clearly that he/she is the right person “, says Chandra.
Asked about the biggest challenge he faced as a CEC, he said the “most difficult” was organizing elections in five states and various polls during COVID-19.
“Because when this election was approaching, we never thought at that time that Covid would intensify. Suddenly we heard about the appearance of Omicron. We had to prepare because nobody knew much about this variant.
“So suddenly we had to prepare to secure the voting process and the electoral machinery,” he added. During this period, the EC intensified the vaccination process and ensured booster doses (precaution) for its electoral staff, including security forces.
“We had to make the unusual decision to stop campaigning in physical form. Initially, we said that only door-to-door campaigns with only five people would be allowed and that there would be more emphasis on digital campaigns,” Chandra recalled.
“We had regular meetings with the health secretaries and chief secretaries of states. We asked them to step up vaccination and we monitored closely every week. We were giving a very graduated response to our campaign methodology. We opened it up gradually, the vaccination rate was very high in all five states and voters had received the first or second dose according to protocol,” he added.
Chandra said yes when asked if it was the EC that had somehow been responsible for scaling up the vaccination campaign in the five states.
“Certainly. In states where it was particularly less like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Manipur, we have looked into the situation and asked leading sectarians and health secretaries to step up the vaccination campaign.
“Each person should have taken at least the first dose. If the first dose had been given, the second should be given. In Uttar Pradesh, the coverage of the first dose was 100%. The percentage of vaccination in Punjab and in Manipur We have taken all possible measures to control the spread of Omicron during elections in these states so that voters and the voting process can be safe,” he said.