Poll manifestos dangle Covid vaccine to drive Indian elections
As the Corona pandemic rages over the country and the world, the need of the hour is a cure or at least a vaccine. Various pharmaceutical companies across the world are trying their best to bring a vaccine out to the world. As a scared world awaits a release from Covid, Indian states seem to have turned the vaccine into a political narrative.
Unveiling the Bharatiya Janata Party’s election manifesto for Bihar, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that they would distribute the Corona vaccine free of cost when ICMR approves it. Analysts think that such a decision is problematic on many accounts. It is not yet sure if the free vaccine is only applicable if BJP comes to power in Bihar. However, using the vaccine, as the carrot to get into power, seems to be a form of threat, some experts believe. Others ask if the offer is only applicable to Bihar, and BJP-ruled states.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter and called it a “false promise”. “GOI just announced India’s Covid access strategy. Kindly refer to the state-wise election schedule to know when you will get it, along with a hoard of false promises,” he posted.
BJP National IT in-charge Amit Malviya opines on Twitter that since health is a state subject, Bihar BJP decided to give it free. “BJP’s manifesto promises free Covid vaccine. Like all programs, the Centre will provide vaccines to states at a nominal rate. It is for the state governments to decide if they want to give it free or otherwise. Health, being a state subject, Bihar BJP has decided to give it free. Simple.”
Former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah asked if BJP would be paying for the vaccine from the party treasury. “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,” he asked on Twitter.
Amit Malviya, BJP National IT in-charge
The problematic usage of the Covid vaccine as a possible electoral poll seems to have spread to other states as well. Following in the footsteps of Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh have made similar statements. As MP heads to a 28-seat byelection, the fate of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government hangs in the balance. Amidst the electoral chaos, the MP government has decided to announce free vaccines, when available, for free to its citizens. Chief Minister Chouhan took to Twitter to announce it.
In Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK government led by Edappadi K Palaniswami announced similar plans. However, the opposition DMK turned that on its head and announced that it would be their party to implement the promise since they would be winning the state assembly election next year.
It is troubling to see that our country has reduced a necessary medical intervention into an electoral promise and some sort of carrot at the end of the stick.