Free Covid vaccine offer by Kerala CM kicks up controversy
Ahead of a key phase of local body elections, the announcement of Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan that the state will make Covid-19 vaccine free has kicked up a big controversy. The opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday approached the state election commission, saying it was a clear violation of the election code of conduct.
While addressing a press conference in Kannur (north Kerala) on Saturday, the CM had said the state was waiting for vaccines from the Union government (once a candidate is approved) and that they will be distributed free of cost. He said the state will all bear expenses of the Covid vaccine , like some of the prevailing vaccines. The big announcement, which came at a time when the final phase of local body election, is due on Monday angered opposition parties.
“It was a deliberate attempt to influence voters. Neck-deep in trouble, the CM is resorting to dirty politics. We have already made a written complaint to the Election Commission (EC). We need action against him,” said Congress leader KC Joseph. BJP state president K Surendran has also announced his plan to petition the EC. “He thinks vaccine will save him from impending humiliation and ignominy. But he’s mistaken,” he said.
The CM’s office has clarified that it was not an announcement and he was replying to a question posed by a journalist. There was no violation of election code of conduct, it maintained.
Considered a semi-final before the assembly election that is due in four months, local body elections are conducted in three phases in the state. First two phases are over, and the final, in north Kerala, will take place on Monday. Results will be announced on December 16.
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