Now Showing: Vote For COVID-19 Vaccine And More!



While there has been a global race among nations for the production of the first effective COVID-19 vaccine India perhaps becomes the first nation to politicize the vaccine that is still a long way off. Yes, COVID-19 pandemic may kindly take note. There has been a lot of ‘finance’ involved in it and so the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in a way, had to figure in this. Releasing the BJP Manifesto for the three-phase Bihar assembly elections starting October 28, her party promised to distribute the would-be COVID-19 vaccine absolutely free to all citizens of the state. However, it was not clarified about that segment of the state’s citizens who would not perhaps vote for the party’s alliance as to how to exclude or list them out. Apart from this the Finance Minister further justified her presence by promising around 1.9 million new jobs for Bihar.


The directly political populism of ‘vote for vaccine’ has, obviously, attracted a series of allegations and attacks from the opposition political parties. They ask, ‘what about other states’ or ‘not free for the non-BJP states’? The immense pressure compelled the party to come out with a clarification that ‘once the vaccine is approved by the ICMR and available for mass production, the central government would distribute the same to all states at nominal costs, and vaccine distribution being a state discretion the Bihar government (if their alliance wins, of course) would make it available free of cost to all people in Bihar. Well, whether the clarification would hold enough water or not the point of poll politics is made squarely and rather too effectively to the gullible and poor voters of the state.


Another point needs to be made here. On one hand, the central government has been urging people to adapt to the new normal norms in the strictest way possible while on the other, for motives of politicking the representatives of the ruling class and others have been blatantly violating the norms for wooing the voters who are the people too. Huge political rallies in Bihar have been open invitations for the virus, with more and more rallies to follow. Not only this, almost everyday some protest rallies are taking place in some places, organized by the opposition or the non-ruling opposition or whatever, and here you see only a few leaders wearing masks, and no social distancing at all. The rampant politicking has been one of the major factors for India taking more than six months to reach the pandemic peak.


And then, Durga Puja 2020 is one more issue that stinks of direct political play. Bengalis of West Bengal and Kolkata call it their national festival, rightfully so, and this creates a crisis of sorts for the political parties of the state. No party could afford to hurt the peoples’ sentiments by asking them to worship from home and not visit the puja pandals, the shops and the eateries at all. 

Therefore, the ruling TMC government had, as always, announced financial assistance to all puja organizers more than a month back, and then tried to placate them further by allowing pandal-hopping from the third day onward of the bright-moon fortnight or Devi Paksha, with strict norms, of course. The opposition, particularly the BJP huffing and puffing to come to power in the state somehow, has also been trying its best to please the voters who are the devotees too. Finally, it took the Calcutta High Court to clamp down rules for the Durga Puja 2020 celebrations, making all public puja pandals ‘no entry’ zones.


No wonder then that Prime Minister Narendra Modi too found time to inaugurate Durga Puja pandals in Kolkata today, albeit virtually. It is apparently more important now for all political parties to assuage the feelings of the Bangla devotees who are also voters, hurt sourly by the High Court ruling and its refusal to consider a review petition by the organizers. Assembly elections are due in the state in the first part of next year, very significantly.


One last point. A COVID-19 vaccine can come the earliest by the first part of 2021 only and that too is dependent on so many other factors. Our humble point being that the more the delay in the vaccine coming the more will be the number of possible beneficiaries, because at least two assembly elections are due early next year and more would follow. Once a promise of free vaccine to the people-voters declared it cannot be denied in other states where the same party is going to try its luck in the upcoming elections.


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