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The ECI Reject Complaint against BJP of Violation of Model Code by Promising Free Covid Vaccine to Bihar Voters

NEW DELHI, Oct 31: The Election Commission of India has turned down a complaint of a RTI activist that the central government and the BJP, the ruling partner in Bihar, had violated the model code of conduct by promising free COVID-19 vaccine to the voters in Bihar in the middle of the electioneering.

The ECI was giving its decision on the complaint by RTI activist Saket Gokhale that BJP which run the central government and was a ruling partner in Bihar had violated the model code of conduct by promising free Corona vaccine in its state Assembly election manifesto.

The commission said it had found no violation of the provisions of the model code in the issue.

“No violation of any of the provisions of Model Code of Conduct has been observed,” the commission said.

Gokhale had claimed that the promise is discriminatory and a misuse of powers by the central government during elections.

According to sources, the commission cited certain guidelines for election manifestos contained in Part VIII of the Model Code of Conduct to conclude that the free vaccine promise was not violative of it.

“The Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Constitution enjoin upon the State to frame various welfare measures for the citizens and therefore there can be no objection to the promise of such welfare in election manifesto,” one of the provisions quoted by the ECI said.

Trust of voters should be sought only on those promises which are possible to be fulfilled, the other provision cited by the EC said.

“It is stated that the election manifestoes are issued by political parties, candidates in respect of a particular election,” the EC response said.

Gokhale wrote on Twitter on Friday, “ECI shockingly ignored the fact that the Union government announced it for a specific state and said action is taken when election atmosphere is vitiated.”

Earlier this month, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had released the BJP manifesto for the Bihar Assembly polls which promised free COVID-19 vaccine once it is cleared by the ICMR.

Opposition parties had slammed the BJP for promising free COVID-19 vaccines in its Bihar poll manifesto and demanded action by the Election Commission, while alleging that the ruling party was using the pandemic for political gains.

Meanwhile, the Congress leader and the former Madhya Pradesh chef minister Kamal Nath has moved the Supreme Court on Saturday to challenge the order of the ECI revoking his star campaigner status over multiple violations of Model Code of Conduct.

The senior Congress leader has challenged the EC’s decision on various grounds and an urgent hearing on the plea would be sought, his advocate Vivek Tankha said.

Voting for by-polls to 28 assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh will take place on November 3 and the results will be declared on November 10.

During campaigning, Kamal Nath used the term “item” against a woman minister. Later, he explained his comments saying he meant agenda. “I was in Lok Sabha for so many years. There it is mentioned in the agenda sheet, item number 1, item number 2… That was on my mind. I did not say it to disrespect anyone,” he said. “Yet, I had said that if someone feels insulted, then I express regret,” Kamal Nath said. The ECI had on Friday revoked his “star campaigner” status for his alleged breach of ethical values and dignified behavior.

Despite facing an uphill task, Nath, however, claimed that the Congress would return to power after the by-elections because the BJP government had taken MP only through the downward slide in the last six months.

The Congress would have to win all the 28 seats going to the by-polls to return to power while the BJP would need only nine seats to get the majority in the 230-member state Assembly.

(Manas Dasgupta)