New Delhi October 23rd
The BJP’s estranged ally Akali Dal has joined the list of opposition parties that have been targeting Bihar’s ruling BJP over its pre-election promise of free Covid vaccines in the state. Calling the BJP promise “ridiculous”, Harsimrat Kaur Badal — who till last month, had been a minister in the Narendra Modi government — said, “Using this life saving vaccine as a tool for votes is totally unethical”.
“Free vaccine only in Bihar? It’s ridiculous! Does the whole country not pay taxes or are they not equal citizens of India? It’s the GoI’s duty to vaccinate the entire country. Using this life saving vaccine as a tool for votes is totally unethical,” Harsimrat Kaur Badal tweeted, joining her voice with the Congress, AAP and other opposition parties who have been vocal about the issue since morning.
The Akali Dal had quit the government and subsequently the NDA last month over the three controversial farm bills that triggered a storm of protests in Punjab and Haryana, the grain bowl of the country. The party, which had initially supported the bills, changed stance midway after the farmers’ protests gained traction.
The vaccine issue has generated huge controversy since morning, when Union minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while unveiling the BJP manifesto for Bihar, said, “As soon as a COVID-19 vaccine is available for production at a mass scale, every person in Bihar will get free vaccination”. The minister also said it was the “first promise” mentioned in our manifesto.
The opposition parties have accused the BJP of using a life-saving vaccine to garner votes in a state election. Many in social media have also denounced what they called extracting political mileage from the world’s most-awaited vaccine. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party has questioned what would happen to the opposition-ruled states and people who do not vote for the BJP.
“Government just announced India’s Covid access strategy. Kindly refer to the state-wise election schedule to know when will you get it, along with a hoard of false promises,” Congress’s Rahul Gandhi tweeted.
In the evening, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E Palaniswami, whose state will undergo elections next year, made a similar free vaccine promise. “Once COVID-19 vaccine is ready, it will be provided to all people of the state free of cost,” announced the Chief Minister.