New Delhi: The Election Commission said Bharatiya Janata Party’s promise of providing free coronavirus vaccine in its manifesto for poll-bound Bihar not violative of the provisions of the model code of conduct.

The commission was responding to a complaint filed by RTI activist Saket Gokhale. The EC said it has 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.

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.

Read: Amid COVID-19, voter turnout in Phase 1 breaks records; check details

“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 EC said.

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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.

On October 22, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharanan had released the party’s election manifesto in Patna. The BJP election manifesto focuses on ‘Atmanirbhar Bihar’ and promised to provide free COVID-19 vaccination for all the people in Bihar once ICMR approves a vaccine.

The opposition parties had slammed the BJP and demanded action, while alleging that the ruling party was using the pandemic for its political gains.

Meanwhile, in the first phase of the Bihar Assembly election 2020 on October 28, the voter turnout of the state has broken all records, even under the shadow of the deadly pandemic coronavirus COVID-19. The voter turnout in Bihar has been recorded at 55.69 per cent, higher than the 2015 Bihar Assembly election and 2019 Lok Sabha election. 

The polls were held in 71 constituencies spread across 16 districts amid tight security and strict COVID-19 regulations in place.

The elections for the 243-House will take place in three phases; on October 28, November 3, and November 7. The results will be announced on November 10.

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