- BJP announces free COVID-19 vaccine for Bihar ahead of polls
- Congress slams connecting vaccine access to elections
- BJP says making vaccines free up to state governments
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday joined the uproar against the BJP's campaign promise of a free COVID-19 vaccine in Bihar, suggesting that the ruling party was openly tying access to the life-saving drug to elections.
GOI just announced India's Covid access strategy.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) October 22, 2020
Kindly refer to the state-wise election schedule to know when will you get it, along with a hoard of false promises.
Mr Gandhi's comment came amid a spiralling controversy over Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday who made the "free coronavirus vaccination for all" promise in Bihar ahead of next week's elections.
"As soon as a COVID-19 vaccine is available for production at a mass scale, every person in Bihar will get free vaccination. This is the first promise mentioned in our poll manifesto," Ms Sitharaman said today, announcing the BJP's manifesto.
There is a global race to produce a coronavirus vaccine and trials are on in many countries, including India. But this is the first time that a vaccine, especially one that is work in progress, is an election promise.
"What about non-BJP ruled states? Indians who didn't vote BJP will not get free Covid vaccine?" - tweeted Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), raising a question that many flagged on social media.
Union Minister of State for Health Ashwini Chaubey, who is currently in Bihar, was asked the question. "The corona vaccine is being made across the world. When it is ready, we have prepared an elaborate plan on distributing the vaccine, who will be given preference etc... Every state will be given free coronavirus vaccine," the minister told reporters.
The clarification failed to cork the deluge of criticism on social media, with some using the hashtag #vaccineelectionism.
Congress MP and former union minister Shashi Tharoor tweeted: "Tum mujhe vote do main tumhe vaccine (Give me votes, I will give you vaccine)... what appalling cynicism! Will the Election Commission rap her and her shameless government on the knuckles?"
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah called it blatant populism. "Will BJP be paying for these vaccines from the party treasury? If it's coming from the government treasury then how can Bihar get free vaccines while the rest of the country has to pay? There is so much wrong with this blatant populism that shamefully exploits COVID fears," the former J&K chief minister wrote.