Thursday, April 22, 2021

Row erupts over veterans’ letter to President against use of armed forces for ‘political agendas’

New Delhi, April 12: The President’s office has reportedly denied receiving any letter allegedly written by armed forces veterans to the President complaining about the manner in which politicians have been using defence personnel and their achievements for campaigning for the General Elections.
The letter from 156 veterans was reportedly sent to the President on Thursday, the day the national elections began.
The purported letter has urged President Ram Nath Kovind “to take all necessary steps to urgently direct all political parties that they must forthwith desist from using the military, military uniforms or symbols, and any actions by military formations or personnel, for political purposes or to further their political agendas.”
It further appealed to President Kovind to ensure that the secular and apolitical character of the Armed Forces is preserved.
Among the veterans whose names have appeared in the letter are three former Army chiefs – General (retired) SF Rodrigues, General (retired) Shankar Roy Chowdhury and General (retired) Deepak Kapoor, four former Navy chiefs and former Air Force chief NC Suri.
General (retired) SF Rodrigues and former Air Force chief NC Suri are among a few who have denied signing the letter.
However, Major General Harsha Kakkar — who is the 31st in the list of signatories in the letter — said he had given his consent after knowing the contents of the letter.
In the letter, the veterans referred to the “unusual and completely unacceptable practice of political leaders taking credit for military operations like cross-border strikes, and even going so far as to claim the Armed Forces to be“Modi ji ki Sena”.
“With the General elections round the corner, and given the prevailing environment where political parties and candidates seem to be acting in total disregard of the declaration of the ‘model code of conduct’, we fear that such incidents may only increase as polling day draws near,” the letter further read.
They have also objected to the use of pictures of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman — who was captured by Pakistan and then released — in posters along with the image of soldiers in election hoardings and campaign.
This comes days after UP CM Yogi Adityanath’s “Modiji ki sena” remark at a rally in Ghaziabad.
Former Navy chief Admiral L Ramdas (retired) had earlier approached the Election Commission against Adityanath for referring to the Army as “Modi’s army”.
Also, Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing a rally in Maharashtra’s Latur had reportedly asked first-time voters to dedicate their votes to those who carried out the air strike in Balakot and the slain jawans of Pulwama terror attack.
The Election Commission had on March 9 advised parties to desist from indulging in any political propaganda involving activities of defence forces. (Courtesy: TS)