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Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman released BJP’s Bihar manifesto.pti
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman released BJP’s Bihar manifesto.pti

Covid politics takes centre stage as parties promise free vaccines

BJP vows to give free vaccines in Bihar poll manifesto, Tamil Nadu CM follows suit with similar promise

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) promised free covid-19 vaccine for Bihar if it returns to power for the fourth consecutive term under the leadership of chief minister Nitish Kumar, in the first such promise made by any party.

“The NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government in Bihar has set an example in the fight against coronavirus pandemic. It is our resolve that as soon as the vaccine is available after it passes through the provisions of ICMR, every citizen of Bihar will be provided the vaccine free of cost," the BJP manifesto said.

After the BJP’s announcement, similar promises for free vaccination were made by the Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami later in the day .

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who released the BJP’s Bihar manifesto in Patna, said providing relief to people from the pandemic was a priority. “As soon as scientists clear production of covid-19 vaccine, it will be available for production at a mass scale. Every person in Bihar will get free vaccination. This is the first promise mentioned in our poll manifesto and we promise it with strong belief,"she told reporters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi begins his Bihar election campaign on Friday, addressing public meetings at Sasaram, Gaya and Bhagalpur. Modi is scheduled to hold at least 12 public meetings in the state before the polls.

The vaccine promise attracted immediate criticism from the Opposition.

“GOI 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," former Congress president Rahul Gandhi posted on Twitter.

The BJP-Janata Dal (United) alliance said the state government will provide benefits under the Ayushman Bharat programme for state’s financially weaker sections.

“It is our resolve that 10,000 doctors, 50,000 paramedic and 100,000 people will get employment in the health infrastructure of the state. The state government will also ensure that the AIIMS being set up in Darbhanga would start functioning by 2024," tweeted Sushil Kumar Modi, deputy chief minister of Bihar.

The BJP manifesto also promises generating 100,000 jobs in the state by creating a supply chain for all farmer producer organizations (FPOs) for crops including maize, paan, honey and those with medical benefits. BJP has promised to build at least 1,000 new FPOs in the state. “PM Modi has focussed and often talked about the importance of fisheries in increasing the income of farmers and agricultural sector. We resolve to make Bihar the number one state in the country in fisheries and production of fish," tweeted Sushil Kumar Modi.

The BJP said while the state government has built 2.833 million houses for the poor, in the coming five years, it would build at least 3 million more houses for the financially weaker sections.

“We have resolve that after rice and wheat, we will also provide and procure minimum support price (MSP) for pulses in the state. This would help the farmers and also improve rural economy. It is the commitment of the BJP to strengthen farmers and rural economy," tweeted Sushil Modi.

BJP’s manifesto also promised to make Bihar the next hub for information technology and will create at least 500,000 jobs under the programme in five years. “We will hire at least 350,000 teachers for all schools, colleges and universities in Bihar, and it has been decided that 300,000 appointments will be completed in the first year of the new government," said BJP in its manifesto.

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