In a big embarrassment to the Narendra Modi government, over 150 military veterans, including eight former chiefs, have written to President Ram Nath Kovind to stop the politicization of armed forces in the ongoing poll campaign.
They underlined the role of the President and explained why they write to him. “The soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Armed Forces owe allegiance to the Constitution of India, of which you, as President of the Indian Union, are the legal custodian,” the letter said. “It is for this reason that the President is also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and we serve and execute orders at the will of the President and as decided from time to time by the Executive—that is, the Government of the day.”
Claiming to be speaking on behalf of the “men and women of all ranks in the Army, Navy and Air Force,” the veterans wrote objected 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 ‘Modiji ki Sena.’ This is in addition to media pictures of election platforms and campaigns in which party workers are seen wearing military uniforms; and posters and images with pictures of soldiers and especially of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, displayed.”
They acknowledged and appreciated that complaints by some senior retired personnel, including a written submission by former Chief of the Naval Staff Arun Prakash (one of the signatories) to the Chief Election Commissioner, “have eliblockquoted a prompt response. Indeed a notification has been issued asking for an explanation from those responsible for these statements, including from the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. However we regret to state that these do not appear to have resulted in any substantive change of behavior and practice on the ground.”
The “misuse” of Armed Forces “would impinge adversely on the morale and fighting efficiency of the serving man or woman in uniform. It could therefore directly affect national security and national integrity.”
They have appealed to the President “to ensure that the secular and apolitical character of our Armed Forces is preserved.”
The veterans also urged him “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.”