Posters featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Lord Ram and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar as Hanuman against the backdrop of the Indian Army's recent surgical strikes across Line of Control (LoC) have suddenly sprung up in the poll-bound states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Goa. It was the BJP's intention of taking credit for the army's success that was under attack when Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi said that BJP and Modi are hiding behind the blood of soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir.
Those who argue that Rahul could have used some other term in stead of “khoon ki dalali” is nothing but sheer sophism. What is “dalali” after all? It is charging a commission for a work done by mediating between two individuals or groups. Brokerage paid for work done is called “dalali”. What was the role BJP played post the surgical strikes? It was an operation carried out by the Indian Army. It was a decision made by the Government of India. It was the Prime Minister of India as per whose orders, the Indian Army launched attacks on terror camps along the LoC. In an unprecedented communique, it was India’s Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) who informed the country and the world about the incident. Therefore, if a ruling political party makes aggressive efforts to roll up the army’s achievements in its kitty by putting posters and banners in poll-bound states, what could be a milder expression than “charging a commission” or “asking for the brokerage”?
Rahul minced no words in fully supporting the action taken by the Prime Minister immediately after the surgical strikes. He showed his open-mindedness by saying, "I will appreciate the PM whenever he acts like one. I fully support him." No Modi follower clapped for Rahul that time. But when he does not support using the Indian Army in political posters and propaganda, he is being targeted by pseudo-nationalists.
Only those who do not believe in the essence of democracy are busy giving unnecessary spin to Rahul’s words. Our army has not been and will never be a politicised force. The recent propaganda by BJP has undoubtedly diluted our military’s overall professionalism and apolitical stature. If Rahul Gandhi has criticised this tendency, he has done no wrong. If the fundamental character of our military is threatened by the party and its parent organisations that are trying to dominate the nation, the main opposition, however small its presence may be in the Parliament in terms of seats, is duty-bound to raise its strongest possible voice.
Allowing the ruling party to milk army’s combat abilities to its advantage on the election trail would be a sin. It is the responsibility of the government of the day to safeguard the borders. But never before the demands of the ruling party was allowed to overshadow country’s military leadership. I am disgusted by the ill-placed, motivated and dishonest criticism of Rahul Gandhi by a large section of media on what he said.
Instead of capturing the spirit of his statement, the spin doctors are aiming all their guns on a word, which was used to describe the BJP's decision to ride on the back of Indian army. This is no time to discuss the mismanagement and incompetence over events leading to Kargil war and how after that the drum beaters of BJP danced for years on the streets across the country patting themselves for the blood of our soldiers. One of the cornerstones of our democracy is a healthy civil-military relationship. In peace, our army assists the internal stability and in war provides the required service.
Governments from time to time have been assessing factors such as social changes, terrorism, insurgency, advent of nukes, emergence of new technologies, and status of civil and military professionals in society. Political guidance has always been a particular key to protect the standards of our army. Civilian leadership always had the highest regards for the ethos of our military and vice-versa. India has no history of any disagreements between civilian and military leaderships and that makes us unique.
We firmly believe in the concept of Civil Supremacy which is laid down by the Constitution. The idea of Civil Control implies a series of rules and procedures that limit the authority, jurisdiction and decisions of the military. Military’s responsibility to society at a large and not only to a group is the foundation of its ethos. This concept of balance has been protected by all the governments till now and it is what is needed to be protected at any cost for all the times to come.
Shaping public discourse is one of the primary responsibilities of any government. It must differentiate between pro-active media and loose cannons. Any government must also know how to maintain distance from hyped aspirations of a particular party. The recent discourse cannot be allowed to a level where the balance of civil-military relationship, which has evolved through remarkable efforts made by the country’s founding fathers are damaged.
Rahul Gandhi’s sentiments should be taken in this spirit—in its right spirit. The forces deeply involved for a decade in creating a particular perception about Rahul Gandhi have harmed the core of polity of our nation by stooping to the lowest levels for electoral wins. Your wins are important Narendra Bhai. But more than your wins, it is important that India does not loose.
(The author is Editor and CEO of News Views India. Views expressed are strictly personal.)