Much has been said about the politicisation of armed forces during the Lok Sabha elections of 2019. Some political commentators have also termed it an attack on the institution of Armed Forces. However, some others have said that PM Modi deserves to get credit for the unprecedented and decisive Balakot strikes in Pakistan, as it is him who would have been blamed, had anything gone wrong.
But surprisingly, some of these commentators, who now find institutions like armed forces under attack from the government, were the same people who in past had hatched conspiracies to support the Congress party. Therefore, to highlight more on this, we list instances when Congress Party has brazenly attacked the institution of the armed forces.
Hatching conspiracies against the armed forces
Congress ecosystem has had a habit of attacking the institution when it does not fall in line. Treasonous conspiracy theories such as one involving the so-called planned coup by the Army chief V. K. Singh were floated when he was fighting a legal battle against the UPA government regarding a correction in his date of birth record. The allegations also appeared to malign his image through disinformation after he had exposed a bribery attempt in the procurement of Tatra trucks.
To prove the point of General V.K. Singh plotting a coup, classified army reports about Technical Services Division (TSD), one of the most clandestine intelligence units, were leaked impinging upon the capabilities of the Army exposing field operatives. For its political objectives, Congress party misled the nation and did irreparable damage to the Army as an institution.
Politicisation of appointments of army officials
Since independence, Congress had used the tactic of giving extension to the serving army chief so that the senior most person, who is expected to be the next chief, retires before the position falls vacant. Some of the examples who were sidelined by the Congress party in this manner are Nathu Singh by Nehru (1953) and Prem Bhagat by Indira (1974). Nehru had strong reservations about appointment of the first Army Chief.
The insidious process of politicisation had continued during Indira Gandhi times too. Just before the Emergency, Indira Gandhi’s government overlooked Lt-General Rawlley and appointed Lt-General Raina as the chief. Then again in another instance, Lt-General S.K. Sinha was superseded to appoint Lt-General A.S. Vaidya, possibly due to the latter’s pro-government stance.
Congress’s uncomfortable equations with armed forces
When General Sir Robert Lockhart, presented a paper outlining a plan for the growth of the Indian Army before Prime Minister Nehru, the PM had replied: “We don’t need a defence plan. Our policy is non-violence. We foresee no military threats. You can scrap the army. The police are good enough to meet our security needs.” He directed the army to cut the force’s strength from 2,80,000 to 1,50,000. The plans were executed despite the threat of Chinese aggression looming large.
As recounted in Field Marshal K. M. Cariappa’s biography by his son Air Marshal K. C. Cariappa, it has been noted that due to the popularity of army chief K.M. Cariappa, Nehru had feared a coup and therefore sent Field Marshal Cariappa to Australia as High Commissioner in 1953. Did the first Prime Minister not trust his army chief?
Lieutenant General S. L. Menezes in his book, ‘Fidelity and Honour’, recounts how the favourite defence minister of Nehru, V. K. Krishna Menon – the architect of India’s defeat in the Sino-Indian war – used to threaten officers with court martial when they raised genuine questions.
Also, it was first Prime Minister of India Nehru who had promoted Lt. General Kaul out of turn, whose catastrophic leadership had led to the defeat against China. In protest against Kaul’s elevation, Army Chief Thimayya had tendered his resignation.
Both General Cariappa in 1951 and General Thimayya in 1959 had cautioned Nehru about a possible threat and even an attack by China. But Nehru had ignored the warnings. Moreover, Nehru had ridiculed Cariappa, “It is not for the Army to decide who the nation’s enemies would be.”
As a result, the precedence of violating channels of communication and giving verbal orders like a ‘dynast’ were set.
The Congress leaders had such mistrust of the army that when Field Marshal Manekshaw returned victorious after India-Pakistan war of 1971, Indira Gandhi had asked him, “So when are you going to take over the country, Sam?” He had replied: “You run the country, I run the army.”
Rajiv Gandhi used INS Virat as personal taxi for his family
Rajiv Gandhi was known for his luxurious lifestyle at the expense of the country. Once, he was off to Lakshadweep islands along with Sonia Gandhi for a private vacation. India Today in this regard had reported, ‘’Questionable actions were, however, in evidence. India’s premier warship, INS Virat, was used to transport the Gandhis and moved in the Arabian Sea for 10 days. Its daily expenditure at sea is astronomical as the Virat travels with an entire retinue of escort ships. A submarine was also reported to be in attendance and some defence experts questioned the justification of depriving the navy of its most effective fighting component merely to suit Rajiv’s holiday plans.’’
Congress’s abuses for armed forces
This systematic policy of Congress party to defame the Indian Armed forces has been continuing till date. Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit, son of Delhi’s former Chief Minister Sheela Dikshit, had compared the Army Chief General Rawat to a ‘Sadak Ka Gunda’ (street-side thug).
Building upon this comment and launching a scathing attack on the Armed Forces of India, Congress veteran, Ghulam Nabi Azad went on a record saying that the Indian army killed more civilians than terrorists.
This comment from the foremost opposition party of India gave weight and even seemed to support a terrorist organisation such as LeT, which has on numerous occasions carried out attacks on the Indian army.
Further, when the IAF chief had seconded Supreme court judgement on Rafale deal affirming that there was no corruption in the deal, Congress Party veteran leader Veerappa Moily had called IAF chief a ‘liar’.
Rahul Gandhi’s insensitiveness towards the martyrs of armed forces
A ‘new nadir’ was reached when Congress President Rahul Gandhi had talked absurdly and rather cruelly about using the alleged figure of Rs. ’30,000 crore’ (which he keeps quoting as the amount involved in corruption in Rafale deal) on account of corruption, for compensating the death of IAF pilots in a plane crash. This insensitive comment came from the person who aspires to be the next prime minister of India. Rahul Gandhi had said, “Rs. ‘30,000 crores’ could be given to you when you die in a plane crash.”
IAF Pilots kept dying in crashes and UPA didn’t have money to modernise the IAF fleets
A report in Business Standard published on March 21, 2013, said that IAF over 5 financial years (2008-2013) had lost a total of 50 aircraft in crashes. According to Ministry of Defence statement then, in those incidents, “a total of 17 pilots and 18 Service personnel were killed. Also, 6 civilians were killed and 25 injured.”
Not only the crashes and casualties, IAF had continued to express its concern to the then UPA government about the declining capability of the forces. But here is how UPA’s Defence Minister A K Antony had responded to IAF’s SoS call to save the forces’ declining capability. He had said that the government didn’t have money to buy Rafale jets.
Therefore, there has been a pattern in Congress’s leaders’ uncomfortable equation with the chiefs of the armed forces. They have systematically attacked this beyond-the-politics institution as and when they have got a chance. If first Prime Minister didn’t want to have the army in the country altogether, his grand-son Rajiv Gandhi had used the Navy’s premier warship as personal fiefdom. When the politicisation of appointments to the top posts in the armed forces was not enough, a theory of coup by the Indian army was concocted. Thus, throughout the history, Congress party has attacked the armed forces of India.