Former Indian Navy chief (Retired) Admiral L Ramdas on Thursday urged the Election Commission to prevent the use of the Indian Armed Forces by political parties to influence the electorate during the campaign for the General Elections.

Ramdas, in a letter to the poll body published by The Citizen, asked it to “send a strong message” to political parties against misusing photographs or other material pertaining to the armed forces, related to the Pulwama attack, the Balakot air strike or the capture and release of Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman by Pakistan.

“I am sure that you are well aware that the Armed Forces have always prided themselves on belonging to a structure, an ethos and environment which has been both apolitical and secular,” Ramdas wrote, adding that he was writing on behalf of several colleagues. “With elections due a few weeks from now, it is particularly important that there should not be any misuse of these recent events by any political party to send triumphalist or jingoistic messages which can influence the electorate.”

He said he and his colleagues wish to share their “collective sense of dismay and deep concern” at the way in which some political parties are “using images, uniforms and other examples, showing pictures of the armed forces with political figures, in public spaces, in media, election rallies and so on”. “This is completely unacceptable since it has the potential to destroy the very foundations and value system of our armed forces, drawn from the vision, the spirit and intent of the Indian Constitution,” Ramdas added.

The former Navy chief also shared news reports of posters and images being used by political parties to influence people. He added: “In the interest of time, I have not circulated this open letter for more signatures, although many veterans are duly agitated by these attempts to compromise the integrity and secular nature of the Indian Armed Forces.”

On March 2, ABP News reported that the Bharatiya Janata Party had put up posters which included images of Indian Air Force jets, in Prayagraj city of Uttar Pradesh. The BJP has also used Abhinandan Varthaman’s image in its posters in other places.

Last week, Delhi Bharatiya Janata Party chief Manoj Tiwari was seen reciting a poem about Varthaman during the launch of BJP’s Vijay Sankalp bike rally in New Delhi. Tiwari was dressed in Army fatigues.