The Election Commission (EC) has held that Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)'s promise of providing free coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine in its manifesto for the Bihar assembly polls 2020 isn't violative.
EC, while responding to RTI activist Saket Gokhale's complaint, said, it has found no violation of the provisions of the model code in the issue. "...no violation of any of the provisions of Model Code of Conduct has been observed...," EC said.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, earlier this month, released BJP's manifesto for the Bihar assembly polls 2020 which promised free COVID-19 vaccine.
Gokhale complains that the promise is discriminatory and a misuse of powers by the central government during elections. Gokhale tweeted, "ECI shockingly ignored the fact that the Union government announced it for a specific state and said action is taken when election atmosphere is vitiated."
EC quoted one of the provisions and said, "The Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Constitution enjoin upon the State to frame various welfare measures for the citizens and therefore there can be no objection to the promise of such welfare in election manifesto."
The EC cited certain guidelines for election manifestos contained in Part VIII of the Model Code of Conduct to conclude that the free vaccine promise was not violative of it, said sources as per news agency PTI.
Trust of voters should be sought only on those promises which are possible to be fulfilled, the other provision cited by the EC said.
The EC said, "It is stated that the election manifestoes are issued by political parties, candidates in respect of a particular election."
Opposition parties had slammed the BJP for promising free COVID-19 vaccines and demanded action by EC. They allege that the ruling party was making political gains from the pandemic.
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.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took a swipe at BJP, saying one has to refer to the state-wise election schedule to know when one will have access to the vaccine. However, BJP claimed that health is a state subject and its manifesto is for Bihar, not for entire India, where it has promised that the state will buy the vaccine.