In the campaign for the 2022 assembly election, soldiers have become the prime focus of both the ruling BJP and opposition INC in Uttarakhand but it’s the latter that has crossed a line of principles.
Yesterday, a cut-out of General Bipin Rawat, who recently died in a tragic helicopter crash, was prominently placed along with that of Rahul Gandhi and ex-prime minister Indira Gandhi. While soldiers belong to no political party ― and they cannot before they retire ― Gen Rawat clearly never had any truck with the oldest party to be used as its campaign material, some veterans of war observed.
Families of serving and former soldiers play a crucial role in the state’s election arena. A day earlier on 15 December, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh laid the foundation stone of a war memorial in Dehradun. The entry gate of the memorial has been named after Gen Rawat, but the BJP has not quite used the late CDS’s images for its campaign.
The ruling party also felicitated close to 200 families of martyrs on the occasion.
The INC focussed on soldiers’ issues in Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Vijay Samman Rally’ on 16 December when Bangladesh celebrated 50 years of independence from Pakistan. In 1971, Indira Gandhi gave the go-ahead to Indian forces who ultimately defeated Pakistan hands down.
Uttarakhand Congress president Ganesh Godiyal said his party respected soldiers when asked why Gen Rawat’s cut-outs had been placed at their political rally.
“Gen Bipin Rawat was the country’s pride. He has a connection with Uttarakhand. General Rawat always stood for the social cause in his home state. (The cut-outs) are our mark of respect to the great soldier”. The party has also invited ex-soldiers to the rally. Some of them were seen being garlanded by Godiyal.
The ruling BJP has accused the INC of ‘dragging’ Gen Rawat in petty party politics. “Congress’s sudden affection for soldiers is understood in this election season. They should have kept General Rawat’s name away from their politics” said Vipin Kainthola, party spokesperson.
BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya tweeted posters seen in Uttarakhand that showed ex-JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar next to Rahul Gandhi and asked whether a party that calls soldiers rapists can respect soldiers. Kumar is now a part of the INC and the communists he represented at the university always question army operations in terrorist- and insurgent-affected areas of the country.