Rattled BJP promises Bihar vaccine being developed and 19 lakh jobs

BJP, which has been mocking Tejashwi Yadav till yesterday for promising a million jobs, on Thursday promised 1.9 million jobs and free vaccine if it is voted to power. Why not 2 million jobs? <b></b>

Photo Courtesy: Social Media
Photo Courtesy: Social Media

Abdul Qadir

Politicians, it is said promise bridges where no river exists. The BJP, in its election manifesto released on Thursday promised free COVID vaccine to all Biharis “as soon as it is developed”. The vaccine of course still does not exist. It is in the development stage and there is no certainty when it will be ready for distribution. Nor is there any certainty how it will be priced and how effective it will be.

The race for developing the vaccine is a global one and Indian, British, American, Chinese, Russian and European pharmaceutical companies and research labs are working to find a suitable virus to cope with COVID-19. In India itself there are several trials going on and Serum Institute of India, one of the largest and foremost vaccine makers in the world, which has tied up with an Oxford firm, is said to be the frontrunner.

But besides the absurdity of promising a non-existent vaccine to voters, can the Government politicise a life-saving vaccine and distribute them on a priority basis to a state which re-elects the ruling party or coalition?

Is it possible that while the vaccine will be distributed free in Bihar, people elsewhere have to pay for it?

The BJP IT Cell chief and the Union Minister of State for Health, Ashwani Choubey, have sought to offer an explanation. The Centre will sell the vaccine to the states at a nominal price and it would be for the states to decide if it wanted to distribute it free. In Bihar, if elected, BJP would distribute it free, they declared.

The promise seemingly violates the federal character of the country and the principle of need-based allotment of resources. By that yardstick, the life-saving vaccine should first be made available to the worst affected states like Maharashta, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi. In most countries of the world, experts are advising to give the vaccine first to care givers and the vulnerable sections of the population, the elderly and the sick. But India is the first country where BJP has given a political colour to the distribution of the vaccine which is still being developed in labs.

Whether the promise is consistent with the Election Commission’s Model Code of Conduct or not, only the EC knows. Quite possibly, it will put the issue on the back burner till the elections get over.

If the promise indicated a certain degree of desperation in the BJP, which has been taken aback by the surge and intensity of anti-incumbency in Bihar as campaigning has warmed up, it made it worse by promising 1.9 million jobs. That is because it was busy ridiculing Tejashwi Yadav for promising 10 lakh jobs. Nitish Kumar in his rallies has been mocking his former deputy and saying that Yadav had no administrative experience, acumen and understanding. How will he now explain the sudden promise of 19 lakh jobs made by the BJP?

It is also not yet clear on what basis the BJP promised 19 lakh jobs and not 20. BJP leaders have been speaking in different voices on the subject, some claiming that the party is talking of job opportunities and not jobs. Some have tried to explain that only 3 to 4 lakh government jobs will be given.

But they are hard put to explain why they could not ensure the employment when in power.

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