Amid demand by some opposition leaders for action by the Election Commission against BJP's manifesto promising free coronavirus vaccine in Bihar, officials on Thursday pointed out that the poll panel had allowed policy related promises made by various political parties, including the Congress, in the past.
Officials did not reply directly to the specific issue of BJP's Bihar election manifesto promising free coronavirus vaccine, but referred to EC's official stand when it had received complaint against the Congress' 'Nyay Yojna' during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The Commission had not found the scheme violative of the model code. It had also said that the scheme did seem to have come under the domain of corrupt practices as enshrined in the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday released the BJP manifesto for the Bihar Assembly polls which promised free COVID-19 vaccine once it has been cleared by the ICMR. The officials also referred to a clause in Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act which deals with corrupt practices.
A provision of section 123 says that "declaration of public policy, or a promise of publication, or the mere exercise of a legal right without intent to interfere with an electoral right, shall not be deemed to be interference within the meaning of this clause".
Opposition parties on Thursday slammed the BJP for promising free COVID-19 vaccines in its Bihar poll manifesto and demanded action by the EC, while alleging that the ruling party was using the pandemic for political gains. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took a swipe at the BJP, saying one has to refer to the state-wise election schedule to know when one will have access to the vaccine. The BJP, however, said health is a state subject and its manifesto is for Bihar, not for the entire country, where it has promised that the state will buy the vaccine for its people. The RJD, the Congress, Shiv Sena, Samajwadi Party and the National Conference all raised questions on the BJP's poll promise of free vaccine for Bihar, alleging that it is politicising the matter.