Weeks before assembly elections start in four states and one union territory, the Election Commission has asked the government to remove Prime Minister Narendra Modi's photo from coronavirus vaccine certificates in these states where model code of conduct is already in place, sources have said.
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress earlier this week had alleged "blatant misuse of official machinery by the Prime Minister" in the state in a complaint to the Election Commission.
A report was first sought by the powerful election body from the West Bengal Electoral Officer in the matter and then the Union Health Ministry was asked to remove the photos, as per sources. The government has been told to adopt a system so that PM Modi's photo does not appear on vaccine certificates in poll-bound states.
The certificates, however, can carry PM's photos in other states. The second phase of vaccination began Monday for those above 60; people above 45 with serious illnesses can also get registered to take the Covid shots.
Alleging violation of the poll code, Bengal's ruling party has cited photos of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on certificates of vaccination distributed by the Union Health Ministry and accused him of stealing credit from doctors, nurses and healthcare workers and "appropriating their dues".
"By placing his photograph, name and message on the provisional certificates issued by the ministry of health and family welfare, he is not only exploiting his post and powers but also stealing commendable credit from the producers of Covid vaccines. He is blatantly appropriating the dues of a vast army of selfless doctors, nurses and health service workers," Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien wrote in the letter to the election body.
The Election Commission must stop the PM, the Trinamool MP insisted, from "taking unfair advantage and undue publicity at the taxpayer's cost" during elections.
West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry will vote for their next government in the next few weeks as state polls begin March 27. Bengal will vote in eight phases, March 27, April 1, April 6, April 10, April 17, April 22, April 26 and April 29. Tamil Nadu and Kerala will vote in a single round on April 6. Puducherry will also vote on the same day.
Assam will vote on March 27, April 1 and April 6.