he constitutional commitment of the Union government to provide “free coronavirus vaccination for all” was offered on Thursday in the form of bribe to the voters of Bihar.
The Narendra Modi led BJP government is under Constitutional obligation to make available the coronavirus vaccine to the people of India. But the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday promised to offer “free coronavirus vaccination for all” if the people of the state voted the BJP to the power. This is the most disgraceful offer. It is beyond comprehension how could a central minister make such a statement?
This statement is not only controversial but it also violates the basic ethics of elections and amounts to offering bribe.
Instead of paying in cash, Sitharaman was promising to pay in the form of medicine. It was the shameful attempt to use the vaccine for the political agenda. In fact, Sitharaman also tried to fool the voters by saying, “As soon as a COVID-19 vaccine is 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.” It is not yet certain when the vaccine will be produced on mass scale, but she was making promises!
Nevertheless, this statement coming from Sitharaman makes it abundantly clear that the leadership have conceded defeat and it was their one desperate attempt to win over the trust of the people.
The Aap Aadmi Party’s tweet correctly sought to know, “Indians who didn’t vote BJP will not get free Covid vaccine?” Of course Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s tweet was more candid: “Tum mujhe vote do main tumhe vaccine doonga (Give me votes, I will give you vaccine)… what appalling cynicism! Will the Election Commission rap her and her shameless government on the knuckles?”
Though some BJP leaders tried to clarify the situation, but they added more to the confusion.
They could not explain whether the BJP will pay for the medicine or the new government will foot the bill. Nevertheless, this statement coming from Sitharaman makes it abundantly clear that the leadership have conceded defeat and it was their one desperate attempt to win over the trust of the people.
This is a widely known fact that criminals dictate politics in Bihar. This time, too, they entered into the election fray in large numbers.
But what is most surprising is the BJP leaders, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, could not muster courage to refuse them tickets. Like other parties, they too nominated them. Incidentally, both the leaders have been blaming the Congress and RJD of patronising criminals.
The Supreme Court in its order of February 13 has made it mandatory for candidates to publicise their criminal antecedents aside from declaring it in poll affidavits.
In fact the Bihar BJP has launched an offensive against RJD chief Lalu Yadav for protecting criminals. Among major political parties, the RJD has fielded largest number of candidates (22) with serious criminal cases against them, followed by LJP (20), BJP (13), JDU (10) and Congress (9).
The Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) scrutinised declarations made by 1,064 out of 1,066 candidates contesting in the first phase of Bihar elections to find that almost a quarter (23%) of them face serious criminal cases including murder, attempt to murder and rape. Significantly none of the political parties have clarified the reasons for nominating them.
It is worth mentioning that to check criminalisation of politics, the Supreme Court in its order of February 13 has made it mandatory for candidates to publicise their criminal antecedents aside from declaring it in poll affidavits.
The averseness of the political parties in furnishing this information makes it clear that they have no interest in reforming the electoral system and the democracy will continue to suffer at the hands of lawbreakers who become lawmakers.
The desperation to win the election is writ large on the head of the BJP leadership.
The CPI(ML) Liberation joined the mainstream politics and accepted the parliamentary politics nearly four decades back. But the BJP leadership are unaware of this change. They are still paranoid with the revolutionary past of the party. For them, the CPI(ML) still continues to indulge in violence and armed struggle. They have been resorting to the tactics of terrorising the voters to vote against the RJD and CPI(ML).
The BJP is trying to scare the people against the RJD-Left-INC Mahagathbandhan and, especially, the presence of the CPI(ML) in the alliance.
This clearly underlines that the BJP has no answer to the questions that are put to them by the people of state. BJP has been using all these irrelevant issues to confuse the voters. Ironically the BJP leadership has been conveniently forgetting the fact that the people of Bihar have reasons to fear the BJP for all that it is doing in neighbouring UP, where the Yogi government is caught in the quagmire of collapse of the rule of law.
Their opposition to CPI(ML) is simply a façade to create panic amongst the Dalits from manifesting their protest. The BJP is afraid of the poor and the oppressed finding a voice. The BJP just cannot accept the fact that the poor are participant in the battle for change. The BJP leadership is unable to accept that the Dalits and poor have come together in defence of democracy and the Constitution and are determined to punish the betrayers of the 2015 mandate.
The CPI leader Kanhaiya Kumar is correct in his evaluation; Bihar elections are not going to be one-sided and the biggest challenge before the Left and progressive forces in Bihar has been to stop the communal agenda of the BJP.
Undoubtedly, the major task before the grand alliance, especially the Left forces, has been to expose the communal designs of the BJP-RSS and ensure their defeat. The BJP would desperately strive to replicate in Bihar what it successfully did in Uttar Pradesh. In UP, it formed a government with the SP and BSP alternatively and the situation today is that it has a full-fledged government there. In Bihar it may drop Nitish and share power with Chirag Paswan. The left would have to on alert.
Interestingly, some bizarre incident had happened in the state at an election rally being addressed by Nitish Kumar. The audience at the meeting instead of raising slogan in his favour chanted Lalu Zindabad. At this he lost his cool. A visibly rattled Nitish tried to admonish the gathering; “What are you saying? Raise your hands and explain why you are speaking nonsense here. Don’t create a ruckus here. If you don’t want to vote (for me), then don’t.” (IPA)
(Arun Srivastava is a senior journalist. Views are personal.)