The BJP promised “residents of Bihar” free vaccination against Covid-19 in its Bihar assembly election manifesto released Thursday, drawing sharp reactions from Opposition parties, most of which said it was “appalling” that a vaccine to fight the pandemic was made being a poll agenda.
Defending its announcement, the BJP said it’s a pledge on a public health issue. Releasing the party manifesto in Patna, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said: “After crossing all the stages, there are at least three vaccines that have reached the last stage, and are on the cusp of production. After this, if scientific people say this vaccine is fine, production can take place. Our production capacity, because of the government’s intervention, is very large.”
“So when the clearance comes from scientists, our vaccine production will be at such a level that what we are promising, everyone in Bihar will get a free vaccine. This is the first promise in our sankalp patra. With responsibility, we are assuring the people of Bihar that all of you will get a free vaccine,” she said.
Of the eleven commitments in the manifesto, the first states: “The NDA government in Bihar has set an example in the fight against Corona. It is our promise that that when a vaccine for Covid is available after clearance from ICMR, every Bihar resident will be given free vaccination.”
The Opposition RJD and Congress hit back at the BJP, saying it is “appalling” to make a vaccine against the Covid pandemic a poll issue. Manoj Kumar Jha, Rajya Sabha member of RJD said, “I am shocked. In a welfare state, promising a vaccine for a pandemic, if it is part of an election manifesto, it shows the level of deterioration in their thinking.”
The BJP defended its promise. “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, told The Indian Express.
“How to fight against the pandemic is our pledge to the people of Bihar. We are not saying it’s only for the people who vote for us. It’s for everyone in Bihar. We will see that every citizen in Bihar gets it free of cost,” Yadav said.
Speaking at the Idea Exchange programme of The Indian Express Thursday, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said: “If the vaccine comes, it will be for the world and for all of India, not just for one state. Party gives a manifesto with intended programmes… that programme of government, somebody has to subsidise. If the government tries to subsidise, it’s a different question… Let the vaccine come, then every state will help its citizens differently.”
On the health sector, the manifesto states, “It is our commitment that ten thousand doctors, fifty thousand paramedical staff, and in total one lakh people will get job opportunities in the health department. With this, the second AIIMS in Bihar in Darbhanga given by the Prime Minister will be operationalised by 2024.”
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