By Rahul Bedi

Chandigarh: A series of recent official directives to the armed forces and Ministry of Defence (MoD) entities have triggered a renewed round of criticism from service veterans, defence analysts and Opposition members towards the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government’s ‘overt’ endeavours at politicising the country’s military.

They said that the BJP’s clutch of fiats, instructions and schemes were all aimed at ‘electorally exploiting’ the military, especially the 14.5 lakh strong Indian Army (IA), to further their numerous ongoing economic and social schemes and its wider Hindutva agenda that continually lionises India’s hoary past.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on X over the weekend, Congress party head Mallikarjun Kharge stated that it was of ‘utmost importance in a democracy that the armed forces were kept out of politics’.

The loyalty, he wrote, of every jawan is to the nation and to the constitution and to force our soldiers in (to) becoming “marketing agents of government schemes is a dangerous step towards [the] politicisation of the armed forces”.

A cross-section of veteran service officers agreed.

“The government is unashamedly exploiting the services for its political ends in the upcoming state and national polls,” said a retired two-star IA officer, declining to be named as he feared repercussions, especially with regard to his continued pension payments.

Furthermore, it’s even more worrisome that such tactics are being effected with the concurrence of the military’s top brass who, unlike in the past, are anxious to please their political bosses, he added.

Writing about one such initiative to blatantly promote government programmes, former Lieutenant General H.S. Panag declared that ‘deep selection’ and ‘merit-driven’ promotions in the services had weakened the will of the top brass to deter political and non-constitutional designs of the government. His tongue-in-cheek reference to promotions was, obviously, to higher rank elevation via political patronage.

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