Rajasthan: How ‘poison’ became the big poll talking point
Raje’s remark has provided fresh ammunition to the Congress, which appears to be fighting a losing battle in the state.
Jaipur: Forget ‘development’ and ‘welfare’. ‘Poison’ is the keyword in the Assembly elections in Rajasthan and the credit for bringing this into circulation goes to BJP state president Vasundhara Raje. She is the one who termed free medicines being distributed under the Free Medicine Scheme of the state government as ‘poison’.
Raje, the BJP's chief ministerial candidate in Rajasthan, had been highlighting lacunae in the implementation of the free medicine scheme by pointing to lack of doctors and medical infrastructure during her Suraaj Sankalp Yatra. However, she touched a raw nerve when she described free medicine as ‘poison” in a seminar ‘Role of Media Professionals in India Politics’ organised by the party’s media cell in Jaipur on October 10.
“This government is serving poison in the name of free medicine,” she said. Her remark did not go well with the masses and obviously, with the government functionaries. She has since been slammed by critics for her remark on a scheme which has helped people, especially rural masses, to some extent. A day after Raje’s remark, more than 120 prominent social activists, including former National Advisory Council member Aruna Roy and General Secretary of Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties Kavita Srivastava wrote an open letter to Raje seeking her apology.
“We are dismayed by your remark discrediting the scheme which has improved access to quality treatment through free supply of essential medicines to a large number of citizens,” read the letter.
The remark has provided fresh ammunition to the Congress, which appears to be fighting a losing battle in the state. Responding to the remark, AICC president Sonia Gandhi termed the BJP as a party of “poisonous people”. She was speaking at an election rally held at Kota on November 23.
In rebuttal, BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi said “no party is more poisonous than the Congress”. Addressing a rally at Banswara on November 24, Modi said the Congress has thrived on what the UPA president once called the “poison of power”. “Shahzada once said in Jaipur that his mother told him that power is poison. They have ruled the country for almost 50 years since independence. Then who has tasted poison for a longer period? It is the Congress,” he said.
The war of words over ‘poison’ is yet to be over. The Congress released an advertisement last week targeting Raje for using the word ‘poison’ for free medicines. BJP leader quickly came to the defence of their leader and criticised the former for the advertisement. “We had raised the issue of inferior quality of medicine. There were instances when glass particles were found in injections and even the expiry date was missing from the label of medicines. There is no proper storage facility for medicines,” party’s Rajya Sabha member Bhupendra Yadav said. Yadav is looking after party’s election management in the state.
“No doubt the popularity of the scheme has not gone well with the BJP, which is scared of losing in the elections. Terming it poison shows mentality and desperation of the opposition leaders,” says Archana Sharma, a state Congress leader.
The free medicine scheme, launched in October 2011, provides generic drugs at no cost to patients at government health centres. The government procures drugs directly from pharmaceutical companies at price lower than market rates. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot later expanded the scheme to cover free medical tests in the last budget presented. Both the free medicine and free diagnostic test schemes became a big hit with the masses though there have been issues of shortage of doctors and poor infrastructure in some places.
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