Bihar Assembly election: Slugfest over BJP’s free Covid-19 vaccine promise
The announcement came at a press conference addressed by Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, roughly a week before the state goes to the polls on October 28, followed by November 3 and 7.Updated: Oct 23, 2020, 03:13 IST
Opposition parties on Thursday criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for pledging free Covid-19 vaccine in its Bihar election manifesto even as the ruling party defended the move and said it was well within its rights to promise better public health services.
The announcement came at a press conference addressed by Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, roughly a week before the state goes to the polls on October 28, followed by November 3 and 7.
Former Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi attacked the BJP for linking electoral politics to Covid-19 healthcare. “GOI (government of India) just announced India’s Covid access strategy,” Gandhi wrote on Twitter. “Kindly refer to the state-wise election schedule to know when will you get it, along with a hoard of false promises.”
The Congress party said the BJP was politicising healthcare for petty electoral politics. “Is the FM suggesting that citizens from other states will have to pay for the vaccine? Is the BJP govt going to make Indian citizens pay to save their lives?,” the party tweeted.
The BJP’s electoral rival, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), also took up the issue. “Corona vaccine belongs to the country, not the BJP! The political use of the vaccine shows that they have no choice but to sell the fear of disease and death! Bihari is self-respecting, does not sell his children’s future in a small amount,” the party said.
Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi called the government’s decision “immoral”. “Shouldn’t the COVID vaccine be a part of universal immunisation programme? Will vaccines be decided basis of election going states, BJP, non-BJP governed states? To make this an election related issue over a humanitarian crisis is highly immoral and unethical,” Chaturvedi wrote on Twitter.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury called the decision a braze violation of the model code of conduct.
National Conference’s Omar Abdullah slammed the “blatant populism” of the government.
“Will @BJP4India be paying for these vaccines from the party treasury? If it’s coming from the government treasury then how can Bihar get free vaccines while the rest of the country has to pay?” Abdullah wrote on Twitter.
The BJP defended the decision.
“The vaccine will be free for all Biharis no matter who they vote for,” said BJP MP and Bihar-in-charge Bhupender Yadav.
“All parties issue manifestos. Vaccines will be made available to all Indians at nominal costs. States can make it free. In Bihar, we will,” he added.
“BJP’s manifesto promises free Covid vaccine. Like all programs, center will provide vaccines to states at a nominal rate. It is for the state Govts to decide if they want to give it free or otherwise. Health being a state subject, Bihar BJP has decided to give it free. Simple,” said Amit Malviya.