In the wake of the Supreme Court order directing the government to desist making Aadhaar mandatory, the two political heavyweights in the Bangalore South Lok Sabha constituency have engaged in a fresh duel.
Congress candidate and former Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) chairman Nandan Nilekani has filed complaints with the Election Commission and the Press Council of India on what he terms “lies and omissions being spread by vested interests and by [BJP candidate] Ananth Kumar”.
The complaint, a copy of which was accessed by The Hindu , said that “shocking untruths, aggressive misreporting and false propaganda”, some of which was defamatory, were violative of the model code of conduct. The complaint names a regional newspaper and a TV channel.
Sources close to Mr. Nilekani said he was miffed with “mischievous reportage” and with “fictitious and defamatory statements” made by Mr. Kumar during his election campaign and on social media.
In a riposte to Mr. Kumar terming the United Progressive Alliance government’s flagship project “niradhaar” (baseless), Mr. Nilekani has said that the senior BJP leader had himself featured on Aadhaar enrolment banners in the constituency. Mr. Kumar had criticised the project in a Facebook post on Monday, where he called the project a “huge scam running in the pretext of helping the people of India”.
In a statement responding to queries on the matter after the Supreme Court’s directive to withdraw any notification making Aadhaar mandatory, Mr. Nilekani said: “He [Mr. Kumar] asked only one question on Aadhaar the entire time he was in Parliament. Why this sudden concern? Just a few months ago, he was advertising himself on Aadhaar enrolment banners in Bangalore South. Once I entered politics, however, he began to attack the project.”
He branded Mr. Kumar as part of “pro-corruption, anti-development forces who are trying to discredit a powerful anti-corruption effort”.
In a five-point response listing these “falsehoods and inaccuracies”, Mr. Nilekani argued that the UIDAI had spent Rs. 3,813 crore (and not Rs. 50,000 crore as was being claimed), and alleged that critics had fundamentally misunderstood Aadhaar”.
“It is not a citizenship card… Aadhaar database is stored safely and securely.”
He took exception to the allegation that he and his team had been complicit in allowing foreign companies access to the data.‘Desperation apparent’
In his statement released to the media, Mr. Nilekani said: “I have said from the beginning that I am running a clean, honest campaign, because I stand for a better kind of politics. I think the dirty tricks of my opponent make his desperation apparent.”