The Election Commission of India has said that BJP’s promise to offer free COVID-19 vaccines in the run-up to the Bihar polls is not a violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
Earlier, activist Saket Gokhale had sought action under the model code of conduct. The EC in its response has cited three provisions from the Model Code of Conduct.
The three provisions state that the 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 trust of the voters should be sought only on promises that can be fulfilled.
“Given the above, no violation of any of the provisions of Model Code of Conduct has been observed in the instant matter,” the EC said in its reply.
Gokhale had while seeking action stated that the BJP’s promise was discriminatory and misleading as India was yet to announce a vaccine policy.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had while releasing the BJP’s manifesto for Bihar polls announced that COVID-19 vaccine is all but ready and will be provided for free to everyone in the state.
Sitharaman’s announcement elicited outrage with the opposition asking the Election Commission to take suo-moto cognizance of the matter.
Vaccine promise, earlier such allegations and EC’s ruling
Media reports quoted sources as saying that the EC has a precedent of excluding welfare schemes.
Media reports pointed out that a similar charge was brought against the Congress for its NYAY Yojana in 20019 that promised a universal basic income of Rs 72,000 annually.
The commission had used the same three provisions cited in the BJP case to strike down demand for action against the Congress. It had said that welfare schemes are not likely to vitiate the purity of the election process or exert undue influence on voters.
When the controversy over the vaccine had begun several former election commissioners had pointed out that political parties had a right to make such promises.
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