A pattern from Kargil to Balakot
BJP’s determination to extract political mileage by politicising military ventures is detrimental to the roots of our democratic polity
Nothing could be more serious than the fact that for the very first time in the history of Independent India, eight former service chiefs, including another around 150 veterans, had to write a letter to the President and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces Ram Nath Kovind, urging him to intervene against politicisation of the military in the Lok Sabha elections. Though the letter endorsed by 156 prominent army-men requests the President 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 action by military formations or personnel for political purposes or to further their political agenda, the timing of the letter clearly shows that the army veterans are deeply upset with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal to first time voters to dedicate their vote to the memory of Balakot and Pulwama. Modi had even gone to the extent of telling the young voters that if they will push the lotus symbol in EVMs, their vote will directly reach him.
Election Commission has also expressed serious displeasure on Modi's speech in an election rally at Latur in Maharashtra in which he made every effort to take political advantage of the unfortunate incident in Pulwama and a fitting reply by Indian army in Balakot. Prime Minister Modi shows no sign of any hesitation in tearing apart the election code of conduct whenever he gets an opportunity to attract voters. At different times during assembly elections held in the past five years, he never bothered to respect the basic spirit of elections in a democracy.
Modi has within him strong defiance for any democratic norm. He always tried to take political advantage of the achievements of Indian Forces after taking over as the Prime Minister. I recall the last day of January 2017, when the then President Pranab Mukherjee mentioned about the surgical strikes in his address to the joint session of Parliament. Modi thumped his desk the loudest and his body language was giving all the credits to this achievement to himself. After September 2017 surgical strikes by the army across the Line of Control, Modi has spared no stone unturned in making such actions the central theme of his government's stellar achievements.
Prime Minister Modi never bothered to consider the negative consequences of using military operations to garner votes for his Bhartiya Janta Party. Even his lieutenants such as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Aditya Nath have gone to the extent calling the forces as "Modi ki Sena" without giving a thought that it will impinge adversely on the moral and fighting efficiency of those who selflessly serve the nation in uniform. On this, Union Minister (Retd.) Gen. VK Singh also had to criticise his party fellow UP Chief Minister. Modi government had also turned a deaf ear to 21 opposition parties who condemned the blatant politicisation of the armed forces and criticised Modi for not convening an all-party meeting amid the rising Indo-Pak tensions. Modi does not believe in the principle that national security must transcend narrow political considerations.
BJP president Amit Shah had announced at the time of the elections in five poll-bound states that two key planks of his party's electoral campaign would be demonetisation and surgical strike. But then he chose to sideline the demonetisation issue as it was heavily counter-productive and BJP focused on singing the song of surgical strikes. Similar is the situation in ongoing general elections. BJP is busy snatching the credit of various important security operations from the armed forces and scientists and adding it to its political kitty. The real issues of ruined economy, worst job market, inflation, social disharmony and rise of crony capitalism have deliberately been washed away from the national discourse.
Some may argue that when Manohar Parrikar is no more amongst us, it is unfair to make any comments on him, but let us not forget how he has been credited with planning and conducting the surgical strikes of 2017, which he also had attributed to his 'RSS training'. The fact is that Parrikar those days was spending more time in Goa for the preparations of Assembly elections than in strengthening the country's defence.
I have no idea what is there in Modi's mind for the warriors of Balakot? But you may like to recall that how one-and-a-half year back he could make the surgical strikes the most highly decorated single operation in the history of Indian army by giving 32 awards to personnel who carried out the plan. Soon after that when Parrikar attended a BJP rally at Lucknow, the banners and posters carrying the pictures of director-general of military operations Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh, who was the public face of the surgical strikes, surrounded by the photographs of Modi, Shah and Parrikar were seen at the rally venue and all over Lucknow streets.
That was a trailer of BJP's keenness for the politicisation of army. The current general election is watching a full feature film of
this mindset. It is not accidental that Modi has demanded the votes from first-time voters as a return gift to him for what he has done in Balakot. He wants them to believe that only he can ensure India's safety and security.
There is a particular pattern from Kargil to Balakot through which BJP tries to fetch votes in its favour. By creating a political hype of army operations, the issues of colossal intelligence failures at strategic and tactical levels are brushed aside. BJP's determination to extract maximum political mileage from military achievements is dangerous. We sleep safely at night because tough men stand ready all the time, but we spent sleepless nights when we see people weakening the very roots of our democratic polity by misusing army ventures to harvest their political aims.
Enlightened leadership is always spiritual—spirituality not as some kind of religious dogma or ideology but as a domain of awareness. Our political system is fast losing the values of goodness and compassion. Unless we have insight and focused attention to change the scenario during this general election, the Indian dream will shatter for decades to come. Therefore, the electorate, especially our first-time voters have much more responsibility this time. Let's hope for the best!
(The author is Editor & CEO of News Views India and a national office bearer of the Congress party. Views expressed are strictly personal)