Is Offering Free COVID-19 Vaccine a Violation of the Poll Code?

On October 31st the Election Commission (EC) gave a clean chit to BJP in Bihar. The EC said that declaring free COVID-19 vaccine to the state of Bihar as part of election promises is not in violation of the poll code.

Introduction

India is one of the biggest electoral democracies in the world. Anyone who has been following the recent events happening in the country will doubt that statement. Democracy is crumbling under the weight of arbitrariness and manipulation. People are clueless as to where the country is headed. Justice is tampered with, and the welfare state is far from realization. Courts and law enforcement agencies are becoming tools of oppression. In such a background, the choice of people and freedom of choice is very important. At this juncture, elections play a significant role in deciding where the country is headed. Many factors affect the result of elections. One of those factors is the manifestos and agendas of parties. All of the parties have a lot to offer only during elections. This makes vote bank politics inevitable. Vote bank politics has been prevalent in the country since the birth of politics. Vote bank politics decided the fate of elections for a long. The welfare of the country is also in the hands of vote bank politics. Welfare is something that every person and political party in the country strives for. Welfare is an integral part of every promise and manifesto. But somehow these vote bank politics hamper the result of welfare.

Story so far

Bihar elections have been one of the most awaited elections of its time. One is because of its timing, and the next is because of all the political tension surrounding it and the many dramas staged. From The Mahagathbandhan to Nitish Kumar said it is his last election, so much went into the elections. And there are many more fates at play which will decide the result. Bihar had been one of the most affected states in all the sectors due to the pandemic. Be it the welfare of migrant workers or the people living in the state. Elections after the pandemic have various deciding factors. And Bihar is no less. Manifestos form an integral part of the elections. They show the sincerity of the parties towards the welfare and betterment of people. As the election was held in the shadow of a pandemic, the promises knew no bounds. One of the promises which wreaked havoc is the promise of a free COVID vaccine by the BJP. The manifesto stated that all the residents of the state would be given the free vaccine as soon as it is acquired. The promise was questioned on the basis that it violated the model conduct code. The EC gave a clean chit as a reply to the same. The EC stated certain provisions of the code substantiating its decision. While the BJP leaders gave different versions of clarifications, there has been a huge outlash by the opposition regarding the promise.

Analysis

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The opposition slammed the ruling party for politicizing the pandemic. Pandemic has been ravaging the world. Instant and temporary solutions do not bring any change. The mandate of the elections should reflect the effectiveness of the ruling party in dealing with the pandemic. Only time can tell us the effectiveness and sincerity of these promises. The three provisions stated by the EC of India do not support the decision rather shatter the stand taken by the authority. The ruling party was using its position for providing such a promise. It is unethical. The provisions state that no promise should be in derogation of the Constitution. One of the basic principles of the Constitution is the right to equality. The state must treat everyone equally. But the promise of free vaccine to only Bihar is clearly in derogation of all the DPSPs and fundamental rights.

The central government must treat all the states equally irrespective of their political agenda. They could provide free vaccines to all the citizens of the country. One of the statements by EC states that parties should not make promises which they cannot fulfil. While there is no committed plan regarding the procurement of vaccines, the parties are already using it for their political gain. The rationality behind the promise is truly in derogation of the poll code. The promise is an undue influence over the people. There are no reality or welfare principles behind the promise. The question remains as to what happens when the mandate is not in their favour. The discovery of the vaccine is still in process and promising it for an election, shows where the democratic principles of the country have reached. The vaccine cannot be equated with free electricity or other necessary goods. Special circumstances call for special measures, and the vaccine is one such measure. It should not be trampled with. Everyone has a right to basic health under the right to life. So everyone should have access to the vaccine also without any terms and conditions.

Conclusion

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There are further complaints of violations of the poll code against the ruling party. As we observe one of the first elections after the pandemic, this will decide other areas mandate also. The result will decide the fate of many parties not only locally but also across the nation. The polls are done, only the results will tell whether the voters bought the promise of the free vaccine. Hopefully, they should give the mandate accordingly and uphold the shattering constitutional principles.


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