8 Ex-army chiefs deplore use of army operations to garner votes

As many as eight former service chiefs and over 100 veterans have expressed concern over use of the army and referring to a recent operation to garner votes in the Lok Sabha elections, 2019, by certain political parties and leaders.

In a joint letter addressed to President Ram Nath Kovind, the veterans have said the Indian military is apolitical in nature and structure and that “India’s Armed Forces have loyally upheld the democratic principle of civil control over the military.”

The letter, signed by former army chiefs General SF Rodrigues and General Deepak Kapoor, former air chief marshal NC Suri and former navy chief Suresh Mehta, among many others. They released the letter to the media last night after round one of the seven-phased Lok Sabha election 2019 had ended.

It particularly referred to the phrase, “Modi ji ki Sena” used by Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath during a political rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad in March. “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 letter says.

The Election Commission had asked already asked the chief minister to be “more careful” in future. The Election Commission had also asked political parties not use photographs of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who shot down a Pakistan Air Force Jet over the Line of Control before being captured by Pakistan on February 27.

The veterans also referred to photographs of the election campaign 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 expressed concern that the EC directive did not appear to have “resulted in any substantive change of behaviour and practice on the ground.” They also say in the letter that political parties are disregarding the model code of conduct and expressed apprehensions that “such incidents may only increase as polling day draws near”.

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