The Election Commission on Monday sought a report after Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath called the Indian Army “Modiji ki Sena” or the army of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a rally, PTI reported. Election Commission spokesperson Sheyphali Sharan said that Uttar Pradesh’s chief electoral officer has sought a report by Tuesday afternoon.
The Bharatiya Janata Party leader made the remark in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, on Sunday while accusing the Congress of going soft on terrorists during the United Progressive Alliance’s regime. “The Congress government used to serve biryani to terrorists and Modi ji’s army sends bullets and bombs their way,” he claimed, according to a video of his rally shared by ANI. Adityanath has been criticised by both Opposition leaders and defence personnel for what he said.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday called Adityanath’s remark shocking. She tweeted, “Such blatant personalisation and usurping of our beloved Indian Army is an insult and a humiliation.” The Trinamool Congress president said the Army belongs to all. “They are a great asset of our nation and not a cassette of the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party].” She urged citizens to “stand up and reject this statement”.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot also tweeted his criticism of Adityanath’s remark. “The nation is proud of its Armed Forces,” he said on Monday. They belong to all of us and are not ‘Modi ji ki sena’. BJP should respect our Armed Forces and stop politicising their valour and sacrifices.” Earlier in the day, Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi described Adityanath’s remark as an insult to the Armed Forces. “They are India’s Armed Forces not the private army [of Modi],” she tweeted. “Adityanath must apologise.”
The Communist Party of India’s senior leader D Raja said the Election Commission should take disciplinary action against Adityanath, reported PTI. “The comment is highly condemnable,” he further said. “This is a clear way of intimidating the voters and creating a fear psychosis in their minds. How can the defence forces belong to one political party?”
Several Army personnel too expressed their displeasure at the remark. “Every political leader must know and understand that the Indian Army serves only the government of the day, whoever that government may be. It is not anybody’s private army,” former Army Chief General Shankar Roychowdhury told NDTV. The news channel also cited sources as saying that the Indian Army had expressed concerns over the remark to the Ministry of Defence.
The BJP has been accused by Opposition leaders, journalists and analysts of politicising the Indian Army and passing off its achievements as their own. At a rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut last week, Modi said that he has the courage to conduct surgical strikes on land, in the air and in space. The remark was ostensibly a reference to the Army’s September 2016 attack on terrorist camps across the Line of Control, dubbed as the surgical strikes, the Indian Air Force’s strikes on Balakot in Pakistan on February 26, and the launch of the anti-satellite missile Mission Shakti on Wednesday.
On March 9, the Election Commission of India had instructed political parties to keep the country’s defence personnel out of election campaigning and not to use their photographs in advertisements. In an advisory, the Election Commission said that the Ministry of Defence had brought its attention that some parties were using photographs of defence personnel in political advertisements.