Bhubaneswar: In perhaps the first exercise of its kind by a political party, Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is set to collect and store the Aadhaar numbers of its members, a move that the regional party’s leaders say will put an end to the scourge of bogus members and duplication of membership.
A key element of the BJD’s renewed membership drive, launched by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday, is that those becoming the party’s primary members will have to mandatorily provide their Aadhaar numbers in the prescribed forms.
The opposition BJP and Congress as well as a few social activists have expressed fears that such an “Aadhaar linkage” could be grossly misused by the ruling party. But BJD leaders rubbished such fears and insisted that the move only aims at ensuring that the party has genuine members.
The BJD, which returned to power in the state for the fifth straight term after the Assembly elections held earlier this year, currently has 47 lakh primary members and plans to raise it to a crore at the end of the two-month membership drive. The BJP, the state’s main opposition party, has 36 lakh primary members and aims to increase it to 50 lakh during its ongoing membership drive.
“Our (BJD) move to have the voter ID numbers, Aadhaar numbers and photographs of people becoming primary members of the party is nothing other than a sincere effort to end the problem of bogus members and duplication in membership,” said BJD vice-president Debi Prasad Mishra to News18. “All those people raising fears of misuse of Aadhaar are both ignorant and jealous of BJD’s rising popularity,” he added.
Mishra, a former minister who is also the convener of the BJD’s membership drive, said the party has no plans to use the Aadhaar database of its members for any other purpose.
“Any new scheme has the scope for being misused. Constant monitoring is the key to preventing such misuse. The only aim of getting our members’ Aadhaar numbers is to ensure that our party has genuine people as its members,” he added.
BJP state vice-president Samir Mohanty said the BJD’s use of Aadhaar numbers for its membership database is a “conspiracy” to both frighten and lure ordinary people for political gains.
“It is surprising how a party (BJD) that had been opposing the very implementation of the Aadhaar system at the beginning is now using it for its membership drive. There seems to be a conspiracy by the BJD to use the Aadhaar database to frighten citizens who are already benefiting from welfare schemes and to lure those who are not included in welfare schemes,” said Mohanty.
Former state Congress president Jayadeb Jena slammed the BJD’s move as well, claiming it would force people to “mortgage their political freedom” to the regional party.
“The BJD certainly aims at luring people towards itself by giving them the impression that their party membership linked to their Aadhaar numbers would enable them to get ration cards and help from other welfare schemes. Such tactics are fatal for democracy,” said Jena.
Senior BJD leader and Rajya Sabha member Prasanna Acharya dubbed the fears raised by Congress and BJP as baseless. “We have no plans to either entice or frighten people. Our rivals seem to be getting scared by the continuing expansion of our support base. Aadhaar numbers would help us in only getting genuine people as members unlike other parties,” he said.