Reacting to a letter written by over 150 armed forces veterans to President and Commander-in-Chief Ram Nath Kovind, complaining about the manner in which political parties have been using armed forces for political gains ahead of the Lok Sabha election, the Congress on Friday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was trying to use soldiers for votes but India's armed forces were with the country and not the saffron party.
Using the letter, signed by three former army chiefs, four former navy chiefs and a former air force chief, to target the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress said that it was clear that the soldiers were with India.
"Modi may try to use soldiers for votes, but it's clear that soldiers stand with India and not the BJP. 156 Veterans of the Indian Armed Forces including 8 former Chiefs of Staff write to the President of India urging him to act against Modi for trying to use soldiers for votes," said a tweet from the Congress' official Twitter handle.
Modi may try to use soldiers for votes, but it's clear that soldiers stand with India and not the BJP.— Congress (@INCIndia) April 12, 2019
156 Veterans of the Indian Armed Forces including 8 former Chiefs of Staff write to the President of India urging him to act against Modi for trying to use soldiers for votes. https://t.co/NHUVDH2BeY
"We refer, Sir, 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'," the veterans wrote in the letter addressed to the President.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath had referred to the Army as "Modi ji ki sena" during an election rally. He was later served a notice by the Election Commission over the same. The poll body had said Adityanath's remark was in violation of its directions not to use the achievements of India's armed forces for political campaigning and asked him to be "more careful in his public addresses"
The military veterans said it was a matter of considerable concern and disquiet among both the serving and the retired personnel that the armed forces are being used to pursue a political agenda.
Stating that in the current environment there seems to be a blatant disregard to the model code of conduct, the armed forces veterans fear that such incident where workers of political parties dress up in military fatigues and pictures of soldiers "especially of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman" are used in posters, may only increase in the run-up to the elections.
"We therefore appeal to you to ensure that the secular and a-political character of our Armed Forces is preserved," the letter reads.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury also reacted to the letter and asked the Election Commission to act strongly against the BJP for its "despicable attempts" to politicise and misuse the armed forces during the ongoing election campaign.
"When their name is misused by the ruling party, it diminishes the Forces & corrodes our democracy. Strictest possible disciplinary action against the ruling party, its leaders is the only way to end this," Yechury tweeted.
Our armed Forces are performing their designated duty in a democratic setup. When their name is misused by the ruling party, it diminishes the Forces & corrodes our democracy. Strictest possible disciplinary action against the ruling party, its leaders is the only way to end this pic.twitter.com/Bh8izMSto2— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) April 12, 2019
(with PTI inputs)