The Shiv Sena on Saturday criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party for promising to provide free coronavirus vaccines in its manifesto for the Bihar Assembly elections, saying that “other states are not Pakistan”. In its mouthpiece Saamana, the Shiv Sena accused the BJP of playing “dirty, low-level politics” in Bihar.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced just two days ago that the government will make all attempts to provide the vaccine to all Indians,” the article said. “In his speech, the prime minister did not make any distinctions on the basis of caste, religion, region or politics, but now BJP leaders have taken a strange stand during campaigning for the Assembly elections.”

The Shiv Sena said that while campaigning was supposed to be virtual, mass rallies were being held in Bihar ahead of the polls. It said that the people of Bihar do not seem to fear the coronavirus anymore, but want a change of dispensation. The Shiv Sena accused the BJP of creating fear about the virus in the minds of people by promising a free vaccine. “How did the Election Commission not take note of this act of promising vaccine by instilling fear in the minds of the people,” the party asked.

The Shiv Sena said the BJP was not interested in development anymore, but only wanted to focus on Bihar. It said problems like unemployment and lack of access to food do not matter because the BJP has been unable to provide employment, and is hence raising the coronavirus bogie.

“Bihar should get the vaccine but other states of our country are not Pakistan,” the Saamana editorial said. “Why do politics over the coronavirus vaccine when the whole country is badly suffering from the virus, it is not just only Bihar. All have equal rights over the vaccine.”

The party said that while the slogan in pre-Independence India was “give me blood, I will give you freedom”, the BJP’s slogan in Bihar is “give me votes, I will give you the vaccine”. The Shiv Sena said that while there were 75 lakh cases of the virus in India, and people were dying every day, it was shocking that electoral politics was being played over the contagion. The party also asked whether the BJP will not give free vaccines to Bihar if it fell from power following the elections.

In a sarcastic vein, Saamana said that if Opposition politicians test positive after the vaccine becomes available, the BJP will tell them to first defect to the saffron party before getting inoculated. It wondered whether non-BJP ruled states should order the vaccine from Russian President Vladimir Putin, a reference to Russia’s claim that it has successfully manufactured one.

NCP leader lashes out at BJP for Bihar promise

Meanwhile, Maharashtra minister and Nationalist Congress Party leader Nawab Malik lashed out at the BJP on Saturday for promising free vaccine in Bihar, claiming that this was an injustice to other states, PTI reported. At a press conference in Ahmedabad, the minister said the Shiv Sena-led Maharashtra government will inoculate people for free.

Earlier on Saturday, Puducherry, another non-BJP ruled state, announced that it would provide the vaccine free of cost. Such pronouncements have also been made by All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-ruled Tamil Nadu (the party is a BJP ally) and the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh. On Saturday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that everyone in the country should get the vaccine without charge.

India’s coronavirus case count on Saturday rose to 78,14,682 after 53,370 new infections were reported in 24 hours. The country’s toll went up by 650 to 1,17,956. There are 6,80,680 active cases, and 70,16,046 recoveries in the country.