Veteran's letter to the President triggers row

Veteran's letter to the President triggers row

More than 150 retired officers of the army, air force and navy have written to the President Ram Nath Kovind, requesting the Supreme Commander to instruct the political parties not to misuse the military in their political campaign during the Parliamentary election.

An appeal to the President to stop politicisation of the armed forces by more than 150 retired officers of the army, navy and air force including eight former Service chiefs triggered a major political controversy on Friday with the Rashtrapati Bhawan denying receiving any such letter and two former Chiefs distanced themselves from it.

The letter purportedly endorsed by 156 retired officers is an appeal to the President and Supreme Commander Ram Nath Kovind to instruct the political parties not to misuse the military in their political campaign during the Parliamentary election.

When DH contacted the Rashtrapati Bhawan, officials said the President House received no such letter. There is, however, no response to queries on whether the letter came on email.

The April 11 letter comes in the wake of controversies generated by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s comments on “Modiji ki Sena”; Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking votes in the names of CRPF personnel killed in Pulwama terror attack and repeated harping on the IAF counter strike at Balakot; political leaders taking credits for cross border strikes, Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari donning army fatigue and use of Wg Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman’s image in political posters.

Describing such incidents as “completely unacceptable practice”, the Veterans said they feared such incidents would increase as polling days drew near. India is going through a seven-phase Parliamentary election which will end on May 19.

READ: Veterans’ letter to Prez: ex-chiefs endorsed it

“Such misuse of the Armed Forces established under the Constitution of India and under the supreme command of the President of India would impinge adversely on the morale and fighting efficiency of the serving men or women in uniform. It could therefore directly affect national security and national integrity,” they averred.

The 156 signatories include eight former Service Chiefs. One of them Gen Shankar Roy Chowdhury was also a Rajya Sabha member with support from Congress and Left parties.

Other former Chiefs who signed the petition are Gen SF Rodrigues, Gen Deepak Kapoor, Adm Laxmi Narayan Ramdas, Adm Vishnu Bhagwat, Adm Arun Prakash, Adm Sureesh Mehta and Air Chief Marshal N C Suri.

An unsavoury row, however, ensued as soon as the letter became public in the social media with Air Chief Marshal Suri and General Rodrigues distancing themselves from the letter.

They claimed they never signed and endorsed such a letter. Initially Lt Gen Milan Naidu, a former vice chief of the army, too echoed the same.

However, several others including Adm L Ramdas, Adm Arun Prakash and Gen Shankar Roy Chowdhury stood by the letter. Adm Ramdas also claimed he has proof of Gen Rodriguez and Air Chief Marshal Suri's endorsement of the document in the past. Some of the proofs were also released online by Maj Priyadarshi Chowdhury (rtd), an official belonging to the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement and the coordinator behind the petition. 

After several exchanges, both Naidu and Suri said they endorsed the contents of the letter. But there's still no last word from Gen Rodriguez.