Kolkata: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said she supported the letter written by veterans alleging “politicisation” of the armed forces.
Banerjee, who is campaigning in Kurseong that falls under the Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency and would vote in the second phase on April 18, said, “I feel proud of the Gokha Regiment. We are proud of our armed forces. But I do not seek votes in the name of our soldiers during elections like (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi. The forces are like stars in the sky. Do not bring them down like this and insult them. Some veterans have written a letter on this. I support them,” said the Trinamool Congress supremo.
“(BJP leader) Amit Shah and Modi will come and go. Our armed forces would always remain ready to sacrifice their lives for the country,” she said.
Over 150 veterans of the armed forces, which include some former Army, Navy and Air Force chiefs, have reportedly written to the President of India against the “politicisation” of the forces at a time when the Lok Sabha election is underway.
The letter raised strong objections to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s ‘Modiji ki Sena’ remark.
It also mentioned the usage of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s picture in political campaigns, apart from the presence of military uniform by politicians while canvassing.
Former chief of Army staff, General (Retd) Shankar Roy Chowdhury, who is one of the signatories to the letter, spoke exclusively to CNN News 18 about the issue.
“We feel the ‘izzat’ (respect) of the armed forces is getting affected by this. We don’t like it, because we are an apolitical force loyal to the government of the day. What happens between the government and opposition is not our business.
“The command of the Election Commission is being ignored and in this melee, our name as an apolitical organisation is being ignored. We have written to the Commander in Chief to see if he can restrain parties from staining our reputation,” the retired veteran said.
Meanwhile, some signatories have alleged the letter was written without their consent.
The letter, dated April 11, was addressed to President Ram Nath Kovind, who is also the Supreme Commander of the armed forces.
General Roy Chowdhury, however, said the letter was yet to reach Kovind.