Free COVID-19 vaccine announcement not in violation of poll code: Vijayan amid backlash
Kannur, Dec 14: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday dismissed the opposition allegation of poll code breach, saying the free COVID-19 vaccine announced by him was part of the treatment for the infection already being given without any charges in the state and he has not committed any violation.
He was responding to the charge by the UDF and the BJP which petitioned the State Election Commission on Sunday a day ahead of final phase of local body polls in Kerala, contending that the chief minister's remarks that the vaccine would be given free of cost violated the model code of conduct.
After casting his vote in Kannur district, Vijayan asserted that the Left front was going to achieve an 'iconic victory' in the local body polls, seen as a curtain-raiser ahead of the state assembly elections due in April-May, 2021.
'We have been providing free treatment for COVID-19 and preventive medicine is part of that treatment. We made it clear that it will be provided free of cost. There is no violation of any model code of conduct,' the Chief Minister told reporters.
He added: 'It's something which is going on in this state and I have not violated any code of conduct.' Vijayan claimed the Congress-led UDF will face a major backlash in the civic polls and IUML, the second major partner of the opposition combine, would lose its base in the state.
The ruling CPI(M)-led LDF had on Sunday dismissed the opposition charge as 'childish' and had said that Vijayan was only answering a question from reporters and also that its manifesto included the free vaccine assurance.
Vijayan had on Saturday said COVID-19 vaccine will be made available free of cost to all people in Kerala.'No one will be charged for the vaccine. This is the stand of the government,' he had said here.
Elections to the local bodies in the state are being held in three phases with voting underway in four northern districts on Monday in the final phase. The first and second phases were held on December 8 and 10 respectively.
Counting of votes polled in the elections, being held months ahead of the assembly polls likely in April-May 2021, would be on December 16.
The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) convener M M Hassan had said that the front moved the SEC as the Chief Minister's announcement was a violation of the model code in view of the local body elections.
Union Minister of State and BJP leader V Muraleedharan had claimed that desperation was 'driving the Communists in Kerala', adding the announcement undermined the sanctity of the election process.
Five vaccine candidates are under different phases of clinical trials in the country and the Centre has last week said there was hope of an early licence for one or more with three of them being under the active consideration of the drug regulator.