May 11, 2021
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Dealing With Maoists: MMS-Sonia Rift?

Dealing With Maoists: MMS-Sonia Rift?

That there are differences in the Congress party over how to handle the Maoist/Naxal insurgency is not a secret. But the recent flurry of public statements and press-releases have Delhi's gossip circles abuzz about how the PM and the home minister on the one hand and the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son, Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, on the other, are not on the same page regarding the strategy to be adopted against the Maoists/Naxals. That the BJP firmly backed the home minister adds further grist to the mills.

Exhibit 1: No statements from Gandhis 

As R. Jagannathan put it in the DNA:

Given the extremely secretive nature of the Manmohan Singh-Sonia-Rahul Gandhi interface, it is not possible to conclusively prove this, but it is reasonable to presume that Sonia is not actively backing the government in its anti-Maoist campaign.

We certainly haven’t heard a single Sonia statement on Maoism that backs the official stand of her government. At best we have had non-descript statements deploring violence — something similar to what the human-rightswallahs mumble when confronted with the latest Maoist atrocities. In her last statement before the Jharkhand polls, Sonia said “there is no place for violence in a democracy” — a motherhood statement at best. Her son Rahul blamed non-Congress governments for the Maoist violence, neatly deflecting the issue. More here

Exhibit 2: Controversy over public statements by the service chiefs

Take the recent controversy over whether or not the Army and Air Force chiefs should be making public statements (or airing personal views) about the advisability or otherwise of using the defence forces in anti-insurgency operations against the Maoists. 

For instance, as a well-argued blog-post points out:

All decisions related to employment of security forces — whether internally or externally — are political decisions, taken after inputs of all government agencies and executed by the security forces of the State. When service chiefs speak out of turn publicly — even unintentionally — they sway public opinion and constrain the government in its decision making. Thus, it is often considered imprudent for the service chiefs to express themselves publicly and unduly influence the political decision-making process of the government.

Under Mr. Antony’s watch as the Defence Minister — starting from the Pay commission fracas, one-rank-one-pension issue, and recently the Sukhna land controversy — the civil-military relations in the country have come under a great strain. It must be said that Mr. Antony seems to be singularly incapable of maintaining this delicate balance of civil-military relations. Mr. Antony has no choice now but to read out the riot act to the service chiefs so that these mistakes are not repeated. More here

However, in Byzantine Delhi, conspiracy theorists point out that the very fact that such statements from the service chiefs have been made -- and particularly that they have not  been one-off occurrences but are being repeated -- means that they have the go-ahead from civilian authority (read Defence Minister). 

The Defence Minister is of course considered a Gandhi family loyalist. 

Exhibit 3: The Home Ministry Statements

Earlier, the army chief's statement that "internal deficiencies, which may be in their training or some other things" had led to the Dantewada massacre was joined issue with by the home minister and his ministry. While the home minister said, "please do not be disrespectful to the jawans. Please do not be disrespectful to our forces", his ministry came out with a release saying, "The Army has trained 10 Battalions of CRPF, 10 Battalions of BSF and 5 Battalions of ITBP prior to their induction in naxal-affected States.

Exhibit 4:  The Cabinet Secretary's Note

Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrashekhar is said to have written to all Ministers and Secretaries on Saturday making it clear that only the Home Ministry would speak on internal security issues as it is the nodal ministry. Not that it stopped the IAF chief from once again expressing his "personal views" today.


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