The BJP’s promise of free Covid-19 vaccine to the people of Bihar in its election manifesto is not violative of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), the Election Commission (EC) has said in its decision on a complaint filed against the announcement last week.
The EC’s clean chit came in response to a representation by RTI activist Saket Gokhale, alleging that the announcement was a gross violation of the Union government’s powers, and an attempt to mislead voters, given that the vaccine policy is not decided yet.
The EC had taken the same stand on a complaint received during the Lok Sabha elections last year against the Congress’s NYAY scheme that guaranteed a minimum income of Rs 6,000 per month, or Rs 72,000 a year, for 25 crore people.
The Commission’s reply to Gokhale, dated October 28, quotes three provisions from the MCC: that state election manifestos should not contain anything repugnant to the Constitution; should avoid making promises that vitiate the purity of the electoral process or exert undue influence on the voter; and should reflect the rationale behind promises. The reply also points out that manifestos are always issued for a specific election.
“In view of the above, no violation of any of the provisions of Model Code of Conduct has been observed in the instant matter,” states the EC’s reply to Gokhale.
Of the 11 commitments in the BJP’s manifesto, the first states: “The NDA government in Bihar has set an example in the fight against Corona. It is our promise that when a vaccine for Covid is available after clearance from ICMR, every Bihar resident will be given free vaccination.”
The RJD had retorted: “Corona vaccine belongs to the country. It does not belong to the BJP. The political use of the vaccine shows that they have no option but to sell the fear of the disease and death. The people of Bihar have self-respect, they do not sell their children’s future for a few pennies.”
Defending its announcement, the BJP had said that it had made a pledge on a public health issue.
“I do not understand why it is becoming a controversy. Health is a part of public policy, and all political parties make promises on public policies. Just like some parties promising farm loan waiver, we are promising to keep the people in Bihar safe,” Bhupender Yadav, BJP general secretary in charge of Bihar, had told The Indian Express.
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