Bengal BJP offers free vaccine, Narendra Modi silent
The Bengal BJP on Friday morning said on social media that free vaccines would be provided in the state but the promise did not figure in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s virtual address in the afternoon, which he suggested was his last campaign speech for Bengal.
“As soon as BJP government comes to power in West Bengal, Covid-19 vaccine will be provided free of cost to everyone,” BJP Bengal’s Twitter post read in the morning.
As soon as BJP government comes to power in West Bengal, COVID-19 vaccine will be provided free of cost to everyone. pic.twitter.com/gzxCOUMjpr— BJP Bengal (@BJP4Bengal) April 23, 2021
“But Modiji did not spell out the vaccine promise himself, probably fearing a backlash from the rest of the country,” a BJP source said.
In October 2020, the BJP had made a similar promise in poll-bound Bihar, with Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announcing free vaccination for “every person in Bihar”.
Subsequently, a dual policy was offered to Bihar like the rest of the country: free vaccines from government facilities and vaccines for a price at private hospitals. On Thursday, the Nitish Kumar government said the dual policy would continue after May 1, too, when vaccination will be thrown open to those aged 18 and above.
In Bengal, the BJP’s free vaccine promise had the ring of an afterthought as it came a day after Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee had declared that everyone aged above 18 in the state would be given free vaccine from May 5.
Derek O’Brien, Trinamul Rajya Sabha member and national spokesperson, released a video taking a jibe at the BJP’s free vaccine promise and said: “BJP’s free vaccine jumla…. Two phases to go in Bengal and remember what BJP did in Bihar…. They announced during elections free vaccines… nothing happened… elections finished they forgot, same thing they have done… free vaccine jumla… don’t believe the BJP, don’t trust the BJP….”
State BJP vice-president and spokesperson Jay Prakash Majumdar alleged that Trinamul was trying to confuse people. “At every government hospital in Bihar, the vaccine is being provided free. We will do that here as well,” he said.
Asked why the Prime Minister hadn’t spoken a word about the promise during his address, Majumdar said Modi had spoken on the pertinent issues in Bengal as a whole and not on anything specific.
“Health is a state subject. Every state government will therefore have to decide on the issue of free vaccination,” Majumdar said.
Free vaccination was not the sole topic that Modi omitted. He did not mention Trinamul, Mamata or her nephew Abhishek Banerjee.
“Infiltration, smuggling, illegal businesses, violence, extortion, syndicates are great enemies of development,” Modi said. “Sonar Bangla will be built with all our efforts and include everyone. On May 2, a BJP government will be formed in Bengal. At the BJP’s oath-taking ceremony, I shall come to meet you face to face.”
A state BJP office-bearer said: “This was Modiji’s last poll address for Bengal. We had expected a dhamaka. But his speech was very mellow.”