New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) promise of “free vaccines” for COVID-19 in its election manifesto for Bihar elections has raised eyebrows with the Opposition criticising it for seeking votes by cashing in on a public health crisis.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took a swipe at the BJP, saying one has to refer to state-wise election schedule to know when one will have access to vaccine.
In a tweet, the Congress leader said: “ 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.”
Earlier in the day, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman released the BJP manifesto for Bihar assembly polls promising free COVID-19 vaccine once it has been cleared by the Indian Council of Medical Research.
Prithiviraj Chavan, Congress leader and former Maharashtra chief minister also hit back at BJP for making the COVID vaccine an election issue.
“Instead of developing a fair and equitable strategy to distribute Covid-19 vaccine to all Indians, BJP’s Bihar manifesto suggests #vaccinepolitics to win...Singling out one state for free vaccines for political advantage is blatantly unfair, illegal and inhuman, he tweeted.
Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi also took a dig at the saffron party, saying that while the vaccine is yet to come, it has already become a part of poll rhetoric by the BJP.
"The vaccine is yet to come, but it has already become a part of poll 'jumlas' (rhetoric). Is the central government's responsibility not equal towards people of all states?"
Releasicng the poll manifesto, Sitharaman said, "When we reach the stage where scientists give clearance for large-scale production of the vaccine, we will make it available to the people of Bihar free of cost."
The medical fraternity to reacted with dismay, with many tweeting against making the vaccine a vote bank issue.
Dr Harjit Singh Bhatti, National President, Progressive Medicos & Scientists Forum, was sarcastic in his comment.
“Looking at the gross violation of COVID19 norms during election rallies I am sure most of the people of bihar will et infection before they get vaccine. And when the vaccine arrives very few actually needs it, isn’t it a masterstroke by Modi Ji #VaccineForVotes #VaccinePolitics”, he tweeted.
Among other promises, BJP sought to reach out to the youth with the promise of 19 lakh jobs in the next five years and farmers with the assurance of bringing lentils under the MSP regime.
"The NDA government in Bihar has set an example before the country in the fight against corona. It's our resolve that once the vaccine against the coronavirus has been cleared by the ICMR, we will make it available to the people of Bihar free of cost," said the manifesto. The promise figured at the top of the BJP's election document.
Even as people on social media wondered which vaccine would be provided free as none had been scientifically approved as yet, Sitharaman also said India has reached a point where it is on the verge of producing three vaccines after different stages of trial.
"When we reach the stage where scientists give clearance for large-scale production of the vaccine, we will make it available to the people of Bihar free of cost," she said.