The Election Commission has said that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s promise of free coronavirus vaccines in its manifesto for the Bihar Assembly elections is not a violation of the Model Code of Conduct, The Indian Express reported on Saturday.
The poll body said this on Wednesday, in response to Right to Information activist Saket Gokhale’s complaint. Gokhale had alleged that the promise was an attempt to mislead voters as the government had not yet decided on its vaccine policy.
The Election Commission cited three provisions of the Model Code of Conduct to justify the clean chit to the BJP. “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 poll body said, according to the newspaper.
It added: “In view of the above, no violation of any of the provisions of Model Code of Conduct has been observed in the instant matter.” The poll body also said that manifestos are released by political parties for a specific election.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had launched the BJP’s manifesto for Assembly elections in Bihar on October 22. “As soon as the Covid-19 vaccine will be available for production at a mass scale, every person in Bihar will get free vaccination,” she had said. “This is the first promise mentioned in our poll manifesto.” Opposition parties strongly criticised the BJP for politicising the health crisis.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, however, said earlier this week that the party was proud of its promise. He added that the assurances showed that healthcare was a priority for the BJP
India has not yet signed a deal for a coronavirus vaccine so it is unclear when it will be available for use in the country, despite the leaders’ promises.
The governments of Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Puducherry have also announced free of cost vaccines for the people of their states. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said last Saturday that the vaccine should be free for all Indians.
India has reported 81,37,119 coronavirus cases and 1,21,641 deaths so far. The number of active cases in the country stood at 5,82,649 on Saturday, while the recoveries reached 74,32,829.