Poll gimmick says BJP on Mamata’s free vaccination promise
Kolkata, Jan 11: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said her government is making arrangements to provide free COVID-19 vaccination for people in the state, an announcement the opposition BJP and Congress made light of, dubbing it as "poll gimmick.
In an open letter, Banerjee said COVID warriors, including police, home guards, civil defence volunteers, correctional home and disaster management employees, will be administered the vaccine on a priority basis.
"I am happy to inform that our government is making arrangements for the vaccine to reach people of the state free of any charge," the chief minister said.
The Union government had earlier said free coronavirus vaccine would be provided in the first phase to the most prioritised beneficiaries, including one crore healthcare and two crore frontline workers.
India is set to launch its COVID-19 vaccination drive from January 16.
Banerjees announcement comes ahead of the assembly elections in West Bengal, which are likely to be held in April-May.
The opposition, however, slammed the Trinamool Congress supremo for trying to politicise the drive ahead of the polls.
"The Centre has announced free priority vaccination for frontline workers across the country. The TMC government is trying to take credit of it. The state government would distribute the vaccines supplied by the Centre and say it is providing free inoculation, just like renaming other central schemes," West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said
"She is trying to turn it into a poll sop," he added.
The state''s Congress president Adhir Chowdhury, too, spoke in the same vein, alleging that it is yet another attempt by the TMC to fool the masses.
"The TMC is well aware its days are numbered, so these are desperate attempts," he said.
The ruling party, meanwhile, dismissed the allegations as baseless.
"The TMC government has done a splendid job in COVID management. If we have announced about providing free vaccines, what is the harm in it?" state minister Subrata Mukherjee said.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had recently made a similar announcement. The southern state will also go to polls along with Bengal.
The Bihar government, too, has given the cabinet nod to provide free vaccine to every citizen of the state, a promise the saffron party made in its manifesto for the assembly elections held in October-November.