Patriotism is one of the finest emotions of people and for 134 crore Indians, it’s no different. It goes without saying that every Indian feels patriotic and they hardly need a certificate from a political party to announce about who is a patriot and who is not. In last more than 65 years, there were 17 Lok Sabha elections and innumerable assembly elections but never in the history of free India, patriotism became a vehicle for a political party to win an election.
Unfortunately, that has changed and now we have a government under Narendra Modi which has begun giving sermons on patriotism and is also distributing certificates for the same. This government incidentally proved as the most incompetent and inefficient government on almost every parameter of governance. After being attacked by the people and opposition for its abject failure on possibly every front, it has suddenly found refuge under the hallowed virtues of patriotism.
Much before the Election Commission of India announced the notification for the Lok Sabha Elections, the ruling BJP and the Prime Minister are busy branding Congress and other opposition party leaders as traitors and anti nationals while posing themselves as holier than cow. BJP suddenly seems to have discovered a new agenda , the use of Pseudo-nationalism for the sake of scoring brownie points over their political opponents.
In an unprecedented development, a letter signed by over 150 high ranking Army, Air force and Navy officers have written to the President who is also the Commander in Chief of armed forces. The letter released on April 11, urged President to take all necessary steps to urgently direct all political parties to refrain from using the military, military uniforms or symbols, and any actions by military formations or personnel, for political purposes or to grind their political agendas.
Indian Army has always been apolitical and it’s a known fact that right from its inception, no discrimination has been ever made either on the basis of language, region or religion. The soldiers, sailors and airmen of our Armed Forces owe their allegiance to the Constitution of India and not to either a political party or the Prime minister. The President of India is also the Commander in chief as well as the legal custodian of Indian constitution. He will have to ensure that a venerable institution like Army is not misused by the ruling party.
Prime Minister Modi has been regularly using the pictures of martyred soldiers during his election campaigns and keeps mentioning about the surgical strikes as if it was done by his private army. In fact, the UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and the central minister Mukhtar Naqvi went as far as referring Indian Army as “Modi ji ki sena”. This has caused considerable anguish and disquiet among the serving and also the retired Army personnel.
It is unusual and completely unacceptable practice for leaders from ruling political party to take credit for routine military operations like cross-border strikes. It wasn’t as if the surgical strikes happened for the first time. In earlier governments too, such across the border operations were carried out successfully but the government in power never made any claims or issued statements.
It’s heartening that a complaint to the Chief Election Commissioner by some senior retired personnel, including a written submission from a former Chief have elicited a quick response. But despite, a notification being issued asking for an explanation from those responsible for making such statements, absolutely no substantive change of behaviour and practice on the ground is visible
Now with the first phase of the General Elections just over and given the prevailing fluid environment where political parties and candidates seem to be acting in total disregard to the ‘model code of conduct’, such incidents may become frequent. If BJP leaders resort to such levels, it would impinge adversely on the morale and fighting spirits of our men in uniform which in turn could directly affect the national security and national integrity.
Even before becoming the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi had started using army for political purpose. Army in our country is always held in high esteem, but it was for the first time that a Prime Minister of country in a most brazen and unashamed manner started appropriating their achievements as his own. In 2013, when Lance Naik Hemraj was killed and beheaded by Pakistani troops along the line of control, Modi went ballistic on the issue – and gave an impression that if he came to power he would make Indian army invincible. Who can forget his famous jumla of “Ek sar ke badle das sar”?
Unfortunately, what happened was just the opposite and after he became the Prime Minister, the casualties of soldiers has been the highest – the number of martyred jawans in 2018 alone surpassed the total casualties in the last 10 year.
There is another sad aspect of our Para military force which very few people may be aware. Just in 2018, as many as 997 jawans from the paramilitary services alone have committed suicide in the last one year and if anybody is responsible, it’s Modi Govt which promised them sky but gave little nothing. Patriotism is not something which you wear on your sleeves, it should be visible in your deeds. Sadly, that is not the case with the present dispensation and it’s apt to say that for BJP, patriotism is indeed skin-deep.
Disclaimer: These views are solely of the author.