Ahead of the upcoming Bihar state elections, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman released the BJP manifesto titled "Paanch Sutra, Ek Lakshya, 11 Sankalp"(Five threads, one goal and 11 resolutions) at a press conference in Patna on Thursday. The manifesto promises, amongst other things, free covid vaccines to every resident of Bihar were NDA to be voted to power in the state.
The finance minister claimed that there are three vaccines in India which have cleared different levels of approval. Once approved by ICMR, the government is ready to begin large-scale production, which would be made available to every resident of Bihar free of cost as stated in the 1st of the 11 'sankalp' in the manifesto.
Several leaders from the opposition have condemned this announcement, including Rahul Gandhi, Shashi Tharoor, Omar Abdullah, and Arvind Kejriwal.
Following the uproar, Amit Malviya, BJP IT head, tweeted, "BJP's manifesto promises free Covid vaccine. Like all programs, center will provide vaccines to states at a nominal rate. It is for the state Govts to decide if they want to give it free or otherwise. Health is a state subject, Bihar BJP has decided to give it free. Simple."
The promise has arrived amidst no confirmations of the discovery of a vaccine across the globe and a rising number of infections and deaths in the country. The country has lost 117365 citizens to the disease. The offer and the subsequent explanation come in the absence of an official announcement of a vaccine, its costs, or distribution plans.
The explanation offered by the party hints that the vaccination would be priced unlike other universal immunization ventures in the country. This is despite the fact that India has set aside $7 billion or 500 billion for Covid vaccination, as reported by Bloomberg quint, and donations into the PM Cares Fund, the details of which haven't been released. The claim also hints at a partial distribution of vaccines between BJP led states and non-BJP led states and not on the grounds of medical vulnerability. The responsibility of waiving vaccination charges have been placed on states despite severe economic crunch, with Bihar and Assam being worst affected.
The offer in the manifesto has been deemed to violate the code of conduct set by the Election Commission, and a complaint has been filed by activist Saket Gokhale. The code of conduct states, "In the interest of transparency, level playing field and credibility of promises, it is expected that manifestos also reflect the rationale for the promises and broadly indicate the ways and means to meet the financial requirements for it. Trust of voters should be sought only on those promises which are possible to be fulfilled."