11:55 GMT25 January 2021
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    India has witnessed over 10 million COVID cases to date, which also includes 150,000 deaths since the first infection in the country was detected in the southern state of Kerala on 30 January last year.

    A key opposition party leader from India's Uttar Pradesh state, Akhilesh Yadav, on Saturday stoked controversy by stating that he wouldn't get inoculated with a COVID vaccine, as he doesn't trust the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. 

    "I am not going to get vaccinated for now. How can I trust the BJP's vaccine? When our government is formed, everyone will get a free vaccine. We won't take the BJP's (COVID) vaccine", said the 47-year-old Samajwadi Party head, who has also been the state chief of Uttar Pradesh.

    Yadav's outfit currently has 10 members in the parliament and 47 legislators in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly.

    The BJP, which is in power in Uttar Pradesh state, dislodged Yadav as state chief in the last legislative assembly election in 2017.

    Yadav's remarks came barely hours after India's federal Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan announced that the COVID vaccine would be distributed free of charge in a phased manner.

    The politician's comments haven't gone down well with Indian social media users, with some even calling for his arrest under relevant Indian laws.

    ​Meanwhile, the BJP has also slammed Yadav for indulging in "derogatory politics" over the vaccine rollout.

    "This kind of derogatory politics is not expected from someone who has been the CM of the largest state in the country. Playing politics over the vaccine is the worst thing any politician would do!" said the BJP's general secretary, Y. Satya Kumar.

    'Free COVID Vaccine' in India, Says Health Minister

    Earlier in the day, Health Minister Dr Vardhan announced that a free COVID vaccine would be distributed to 30 million individuals who have been on the frontline fighting the pandemic in the country.

    ​A federal panel of experts on Friday gave its nod to the Oxford vaccine, Covishield, to be rolled out across the country. All Indian states held a dry-run for the vaccine on Saturday so that any gaps could be revealed before the authorities embarked on the actual vaccination drive.

    Covishield is being manufactured domestically by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India.

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    Sputnik V, Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), Uttar Pradesh, COVID-19, India
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