A letter reported to have been sent by a group of retired defence officers against use of the military for political gains sparked off a huge controversy on Friday after two ex-service chiefs denied having consented to the letter said to have been sent to President Ramnath Kovind.
General SF Rodrigues who is listed as the first signatory to the letter said to have been written by armed forces veterans to President, called it a “classic manifestation of fake news”.
“All my life, we have been apolitical. After 42 years as an officer, it is a little late to change,” he said, according to news agency ANI. General Rodrigues, who was the army chief between 1990 and 1993, said he had always put the country first and wasn’t aware who had circulated the letter.
WATCH: ‘Know nothing about the letter’: Gen SF Rodrigues denies writing to President
Former air chief NC Suri said a letter had been circulating on email and WhatsApp. “To put an end to it, I wrote that armed forces are apolitical and support the politically-elected government,” he said, according to news agency ANI.
“And no, my consent has not been taken for any such letter. I don’t agree with whatever has been written in that letter. We have been misquoted,” he added. Former Army Vice Chief Lt General ML Naidu said his consent hadn’t been taken for any such letter.
Referring to the denials from the two former services chiefs, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said it is worrying that fake letters are being circulated by vested groups. “It is condemnable,” she said.
An official in President Kovind’s office also denied that they had received the letter, according to ANI.
The sting of denials came shortly after the Congress, which has accused the ruling BJP of using the Balakot air strike for political gains, moved in to cite the letter to launch a fresh round of attacks at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Modi may try to use soldiers for votes, but it’s clear that soldiers stand with India and not the BJP. 156 Veterans of the Indian Armed Forces including 8 former Chiefs of Staff write to the President of India urging him to act against Modi for trying to use soldiers for votes,” the Congress tweeted.
The Election Commission had earlier advised political parties not to use photographs of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who shot down a Pakistan Air Force F-16 fighter during an aerial dogfight on February 27, or use other military action in their election campaign.
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”.
Apr 12, 2019 15:00 IST