PATNA: A major row broke out on Thursday over “vaccine politics” with BJP’s Bihar poll manifesto promising free Covid-19 vaccines and opposition parties slamming the announcement as “politicisation of the pandemic” while asking if India’s vaccination strategy would be driven by the election schedule of its states.
Unveiling BJP’s “free vaccine for all” pledge, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “As soon as Covid-19 vaccine will be 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.”
Later in the day, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka vowed to vaccinate every citizen for free, while MP said its poor would get free vaccination. BJP’s promise in Bihar drew sharp responses from Congress, RJD, Shiv Sena, CPM and NC.
However, official sources, while refusing to comment on a “political issue”, said the BJP manifesto spoke of free distribution only when a vaccine reached largescale production.
At initial stages of production, the prioritisation plans being drawn up by the Centre would be followed and the vaccine would be procured by the central government, official sources said. Congress’ Rahul Gandhi hit out at BJP’s vaccine pledge, tweeting, “Government just announced India’s Covid access strategy. Kindly refer to the state-wise election schedule to know when you will get it, along with a hoard of false promises.”
GOI just announced India’s Covid access strategy. Kindly refer to the state-wise election schedule to know when w… https://t.co/frGw2cYYIj
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) 1603362864000
BJP’s social media head Amit Malviya, however, defended the promise, “BJP’s manifesto promises free Covid vaccine. Like all programmes, Centre will provide vaccines to states at a nominal rate. It is for the state governments 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.”
The controversy, however, continued to rage with former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah asking whether the vaccines will be paid for from the BJP treasury and CPM leader Sitaram Yechury calling the announcement a brazen violation of the code of conduct.
Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel said BJP was politicising the health of citizens and Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi asked whether this was going to be another empty poll promise like pledges of assistance to Maharashtra. BJP’s ally in Bihar JD(U) said vaccines would be made available free.
“Health is a state subject. If the NDA government returns, it will either distribute vaccines among people, whatever its cost, or conduct a mass vaccination drive. I will not be able to say who is doing politics on it, but free vaccination will be for the good of people,” state JD(U) spokesman Rajiv Ranjan Prasad said.
Speaking on the manifesto, Sitharaman said the country was nearing vaccine production and said when scientists give clearance for mass production of the vaccine, it would be made available to the people of Bihar free of cost. While the government has indicated that a vaccine can be available early next year, the stage three trial data for the AstraZeneca candidate is expected to be ready for scrutiny by end-November or early-December, raising the possibility of the first doses being ready for use this year itself but well after the Bihar polls are done and dusted.
The BJP manifesto also promised 19 lakh jobs in an apparent bid to counter the Mahagathbandhan’s CM face Tejashwi Yadav’s poll promise of 10 lakh government jobs. The free vaccine promise is the first of the 11 resolutions in the manifesto.
“Vaccine for coronavirus belongs to the country, and not BJP. The political use of this vaccine shows they have no other option than selling fear of death and disease,” read a tweet posted by RJD’s official handle.
“We have requested the Election Commission to take notice of such promises. BJP is trying to sign a poll deal using the vaccine,” RJD spokesman Chittaranjan Gagan said. Congress’ Randeep Singh Surjewala said the promise was a “political gimmick”.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that a vaccine is not possible before a year. BJP in a way is deriding people,” he added. Sitharaman said second generation IT hubs would be created in Rajgir and Patna — IT Park, IT Tower, Software Park and Hardware Manufacturing Park — with a potential to create job opportunities for 5 lakh youths.
Source :Google News