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Generals in Politics – anything wrong?

May 6, 2019 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd) Photo(s): By Twitter / @BJP4India
The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army


Seven veteran officers join BJP in the presence of Nirmala Sitharaman at BJP HQ in New Delhi.

The electronic and print media prominently covered induction of seven army Generals into the BJP on April 27 amidst the beaming Raksha Mantri (RM) Nirmala Sitharaman. Only recently, a senior military veteran had told a Union Minister that while there were 100 plus Generals at the pre-election rally at Rewari, Haryana by BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on September 13, 2013, BJP may not be able to muster 10 Generals today in an ex-servicemen rally. The timing was significant, after voting in two phases of Lok Sabha elections had been completed, even though Sitharaman may have wanted to engineer this before the first phase voting on April 11.

Under the Allocation of Business & Transaction of Business Rules Act 1961, India has continued the British legacy of charging the Defence Secretary with the defence of India. Resultantly, all governments have used the RM for collecting money and promoting own political party. How much money RMs have collected is probably known to defence secretaries but Sitharaman has beaten all her predecessors in increasing vote bank of her political party by opening cantonments and hospitals, promoting the Defence Estates known for its corruption, while deriding the military; fighting legal battles against disabled and Veer Naris (military widows), agreeing to FIRs against soldiers for actions in self defence even when covered by AFSPA, and approving false affidavits to deny NFU to armed forces, to name few. But smiling with seven Generals joining BJP, Sitharaman can't wash her record that makes her the second worst defence minister after V.K. Krishna Menon, though she may beat him should NDA III retain her in the same appointment. Her histrionics when questioned about OROP in public, and the arrogant manner in which she talks to senior military officers is talk of the town. But what can one expect from her when she publicly decried General B.C. Khanduri heading Parliament's Standing Committee for Defence for bringing out the pathetic state of Armed Forces, and even succeeding in having him removed, despite the General being of her father's age and a Union Minister during the NDA I government.

There is nothing wrong in Generals joining the BJP or for that matter any military- man joining any political party. Precedence exists with Major Jaswant Singh, Squadron Leader Rajesh Pilot, Major General B.C. Khanduri, Captain Amrinder Singh, Captain J.S. Drona, Lt Gen J.F.R. Jacob, General Shankar Roy Chowdhury, General V.K. Singh, Col R.S. Rathore etc joining various political parties.

India is a democracy and it is an individual choice. A former Army Vice Chief who recently lambasted pathetic defence allocations by NDA II through a presentation to Parliament's Standing Committee for Defence, has now joined the BJP. One third of our current galaxy of lawmakers have criminal charges against them and looking at the characters put up by political parties in the ongoing general elections, this number may even go up. Hence, induction of military-men into politics 'can' usher sensible decision making. Technically there is nothing wrong in military-men joining politics but what goes wrong is that many forget they once wore uniform. This defeats the whole purpose of their joining politics – ushering balanced decision making, particularly on issues of national security which at best has been knee-jerk in India. Apparently, some interpret their entry in LS (Lok Sabha) mandates them to the other LS – 'Lips Sealed'. Another variety remains straight jacketed with the 'three bags full' syndrome – not a word of advice against what the boss thinks, even if is wrong. Then there is a third variety vying for what social media terms as 'Assmosis'. An incumbent Chief Minister received a notice from the Election Commission for publicly calling the Army 'Modiji Ki Sena', even as another politico denied the ticket repeated the same to appease the hierarchy. But now an upstart politico-military-man has declared that "Entire Army stands with the BJP & PM". This should earn him 'distinction' in his 'Assmosis' PhD, considering his earlier pronouncement that "veterans protesting for OROP at Jantar Mantar are aligned with Pakistan" earned him a political upgrade. Little wonder that the army regiment, in which he had served, has debarred him from attending any regimental functions. Letter 00043/SPA/COAS Sectt/Misc dated April 16, 2017 from General Bipin Rawat, Army Chief to the then RM Arun Jaitley (copy on social media) had highlighted following: 7th CPC for armed forces reaching stalemate despite RM briefed on military's core concerns before issue of implementation orders of 7th CPC; NFU cause of concern since status of All India Services and Organized Group 'A' services officers viz those of military has got linked to NFU; IAS draw 10,000 per month with 18-20 years service, Organized Group 'A' get it two years later but only 0.62% military officers become two-star and get this pay at 25-31 years service; officers from MES, BRO etc draw NFU, denied to military, which creates functional problems within services; Warrant of Precedence promulgated by GoI in 1937 and 1979 was for ceremonial purposes only. Therefore, laying down separate parameters for Warrant of Precedence and 'Status' has created a situation of dichotomy, and; hence, military has also requested NFU to maintain their rightful status and with that dignity of our personnel in uniform. Jaitley of course trashed the letter given his abhorrence to the military, having lost his deposit fighting elections to an army-man in 2014. He and his successors are fighting tooth and nail to deny the military NFU, even telling the Court that the serving live in "palatial houses". No government has been able to muster guts to reorganise the MoD and higher defence organisation for fear of the 'hamam' that is privy to their black deeds. That is why military-men joining politics and as lawmakers must speak up. Lastly, military-men in politics must maintain decorum of the uniform they once wore; antics like sporting medals for electioneering and drunk-slurring when speaking in public only exposes the buffoon in them.