BJP promises 'free COVID-19 vaccines' in Bihar poll manifesto, triggers row

"As soon as the COVID-19 vaccine is available for mass production, every person in Bihar will get free vaccination," Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.
BJP leaders releasing the manifesto
BJP leaders releasing the manifesto
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Several people questioned the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) promise to give 'free COVID-19 vaccines' in Bihar as part of its election manifesto for the upcoming Assembly polls in the state.  "As soon as the COVID-19 vaccine is available for mass production, every person in Bihar will get free vaccination. This is the first promise of our election manifesto," Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters at the launch of the party's manifesto for the elections. She also said that several vaccines were being developed in the country and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) would finalise the ones fit for mass production.

Questioning the move, many asked if there was any relation between providing the COVID-19 vaccine, which is the legal responsibility of the government, and upcoming elections in one state of the country.

Former diplomat KC Singh said, "Does it mean that it will be free only in BJP ruled or poll-bound states? Couldn’t provide free trains in time for migrant workers returning home in panic, but now they are VVIPs."

"Wow. From vaccine diplomacy to vaccine nationalism to vaccine politics. COVID-19 may not discriminate in its targets and victims, but for Nirmala Sitharaman to use a much awaited treatment/cure for it as a political carrot for BJP campaign in upcoming Bihar election is plain unethical," journalist Maya Mirchandani tweeted.

The official handle of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also hit out at the Union Minister's statement, tweeting, "What about non-BJP ruled states? Indians who didn't vote BJP will not get a free COVID-19 vaccine?"  

Meanwhile. the BJP have an explanation that since health is a state subject, the party was promising to give the vaccine for free in the state.

Campaigning is underway in full force in the state ahead of the voting which will be done in three phases, followed by counting of votes on November 10. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi are both expected to begin touring the state and campaigning for their parties from October 23. The BJP is contesting in an alliance with incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) and is campaigning on a plank of development and providing welfare schemes in the fields of agriculture, education and health.

Meanwhile, the Congress on Wednesday released its manifesto for the Bihar Assembly polls, promising 10 lakh government jobs, farm loan waiver and a monthly unemployment allowance of Rs 1,500 if voted to power. It also assured the farmers of 50% rebate in electricity bills and repeal of the three farm laws brought by the Union government.

The Congress is contesting 70 out of the 243 assembly seats in alliance with the RJD, and three Left parties. The RJD will contest 144 seats, CPI(ML) will contest 19, while the CPI will contest six and CPI(M) will contest four.

Here is what Nirmala Sitharaman said: 

With IANS and PTI inputs

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