31 Oct 2020: BJP's vaccine promise in Bihar doesn't violate election code: EC
The Bharatiya Janata Party's promise of free COVID-19 vaccines in Bihar ahead of the state polls does not violate the election code, the Election Commission has held.
The EC's clean chit comes in response to a complaint filed by RTI activist Saket Gokhale alleging that the poll promise violated the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) as the vaccine policy has not been decided yet.
Details: 'No violation of any MCC provisions observed'
Gokhale had raised an objection against the BJP's Bihar poll manifesto which had promised free vaccination for the state when the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) comes to power.
The EC's reply—dated October 28—quoted three provisions under the MCC and stated, "...no violation of any of the provisions of Model Code of Conduct has been observed in the instant matter," The Indian Express reported.
Fact: What provisions were cited by the Election Commission?
Reportedly, the provisions cited by the EC were: state election manifestos should not contain anything repugnant to the Constitution; should avoid making promises that vitiate the purity of the electoral process or exert undue influence on the voter; and should reflect the rationale behind promises.
Backstory: Controversy had erupted after BJP's vaccine promise
The BJP had released its poll manifesto, the 'Sankalp Patra', on October 22.
The promise of free state-wide access to a COVID-19 vaccine in the 11-point manifesto had created a furor with the Opposition claiming that the BJP was trying to sell the vaccine for votes, despite it being a right of every Indian.
Critics said the move highlighted the BJP's desperation.
BJP’s defense: Perfectly in order with MCC, asserted BJP
The BJP had, however, defended the poll promise, asserting that it was "perfectly in order" with the election code.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Saturday, "It is a manifesto announcement. A party can announce what it wants to do when it comes to power. That is exactly what is announced. Health is a state subject. It is perfectly in order.
Complainant: 'Commission ignoring that government announced free vaccine for specific state'
Gokhale, who had claimed that the promise is discriminatory and a misuse of powers by the central government during elections, was not satisfied with the Commission's reply.
In response to the Commission's reply, Gokhale tweeted on Saturday, "ECI shockingly ignored the fact that the Union government announced [free vaccine] for a specific state and said action is taken when 'election atmosphere is vitiated.'"