Bharatiya Janata Party National General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya on Sunday said that he will give priority to those who have served as Agniveers for security jobs at his office, ANI reported.

“I will give preference to an Agniveer to hire him as security [guard] in BJP office, even you can,” Vijayvargiya said at the BJP office in Indore. “People have faith in armymen.”

His comments came at a time when the country is witnessing widespread protests after the Centre on Tuesday announced the Agnipath scheme for short-term recruitment into the armed forces.

After serving four years in the military, only 25% of the recruits will be eligible to apply as regular personnel.

But the protestors are demanding permanent recruitment under the regular process as well as pension and other retirement benefits that are not a part of the Agnipath scheme.

On Sunday, Vijayvargiya said that implementing the scheme is not a political decision, PTI reported.

“This plan has been made on the basis of the suggestions given to the government by an expert team of three service chiefs and retired Army officers,” he said. “In the report of a commission made after the Kargil war, it was also suggested that the average age of soldiers joining the country’s army should be less.”

Under the Agnipath scheme, citizens aged between 17-and-a-half and 21 years will be eligible to apply. On Thursday, the Union government increased the age limit for recruitment in the armed forces under the Agnipath scheme to 23 years for this year.

“Under the Agnipath scheme, the youth would develop qualities like discipline and obedience, which would benefit them in their lives even after the completion of the service period,” Vijayvargiya said in a bid to contain the outrage.

Opposition reacts

BJP MP Varun Gandhi and Opposition parties criticised Vijayvargiya for his remarks.

Gandhi wrote on Twitter, “The great army...whose valour resonates across the whole world, gets an invitation to be a chowkidar [watchman] of a political office. Congratulations to the one who gave it. The Indian Army is a medium of service for Mother India, and not just another job.”

Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal urged the BJP to not insult the country’s youth.

“The youth of our country work hard day and night to pass the physical exam, pass the test because they want to serve the country whole life by going to the army, not because they want to be a guard outside the BJP office,” he said.

Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi said Vijayvargiya’s comments trivialised the importance of those in uniform.

The Madhya Pradesh Congress demanded an apology from the BJP for “insulting” the defence forces.

The Madhya Pradesh Congress Sevadal wrote on Twitter, “Ambani Adani’s watchman now wants to make the youth of the whole country as security guards.”

After his comments created a controversy, Vijayvargiya accused the “toolkit gang” of twisting his remarks to insult the workers of the country. “The nation is well aware of the conspiracies of this toolkit gang against the Rashtraveer and Dharmveer,” he said in a series of tweets.

The BJP leader claimed his initial comments meant that the excellence of those who will serve under the scheme can be utilised in whichever field they choose after completing their tenure.

On Friday, Union minister G Kishan Reddy said that Agniveers will be trained with the skills of drivers, electricians, washermen and barbers, India Today reported.

“After four years of training, Agniveers can be helpful for these posts,” Reddy said.