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BJP’s free Covid vaccine pledge in Bihar sparks row

Friday, 23 October 2020 | PNS | New Delhi

Opp questions whether other Indians won’t get free vaccine; BJP’s Bihar polls manifesto also promises 19L jobs in 5 years

The BJP’s poll promise of free coronavirus vaccination to everyone in Bihar triggered a major row on Thursday. The Opposition came down heavily on the ruling party for making the life-saving drug a tool for political gains and charged it with linking the vaccine’s access with elections. The BJP countered the charges saying it has taken up a public health issue and the Opposition should not be upset over it. The BJP also promised 19 lakh jobs in the next five years.

“As soon as a Covid-19 vaccine is available for production at a mass scale, every person in Bihar will get free vaccination. This is the first promise mentioned in our poll manifesto,” Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, announcing the BJP’s 11-point “sankalp patra” (draft of commitments) for the Bihar polls.

Soon after, AAP convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal took to Twitter to question: “What about non-BJP ruled States? Indians who didn’t vote BJP will not get free Covid vaccine?”

The Congress as well as the RJD besides former Jammu & Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Akhilesh Yadav  hit out at the BJP.

“GOI just announced India’s Covid access strategy. Kindly refer to the State-wise election schedule to know when will you get it, along with a hoard of false promises,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

Omar termed it blatant populism and asked: “Will BJP 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? There is so much wrong with this blatant populism that shamefully exploits Covid fears.”

Akhilesh Yadav asked why such a declaration was not made for Uttar Pradesh and other States? “The people of UP and the country will respond to such opportunistic narrow politics to the BJP in the upcoming elections,” he asserted.

Union Minister of State for Health Ashwini Chaubey said, “Every State will be given free coronavirus vaccine.” And the BJP came out strongly defending its announcement. Bihar incharge Bhupender Yadav said, “Every political party goes into the election with a manifesto. Someone talks about employment, someone talks about farm loan waiver, someone talks about pucca houses. Why is the Opposition upset if we are going with a public health issue?”

will provide vaccines to States at a nominal rate and since health is State subject, it is for the State Governments to decide if they want to give it free or otherwise. “Bihar BJP has decided to give it free,” he stressed.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor reacted on the issue and wondered if the Election Commission “will rap her (Sitharaman) and her shameless Government on the knuckles” while party spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said the BJP would be the only political party in the world which

thinks Covid vaccine is an election lollipop instead of life saving measure to be administered as matter of right and not matter of conditional political privilege.

“BJP’s vicious mentality needs cure along with Covid,” he added.

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