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'Opposition Has the Right to Criticise a Policy': Chidambaram Slams EC For 'Agniveer' Rap

A day ago, in a letter, the EC claimed that Rahul Gandhi’s reference to the Agniveer scheme flouts the model code of conduct's 'specific prohibition against the use of armed forces for campaigning purposes.'
P. Chidambaram. Photo: Facebook/PChidambaram.INC

New Delhi: Congress leader P. Chidambaram has said that the Election Commission is wrong “in directing the Congress party not to
‘politicise’ the Agniveer scheme.”

“What does ‘politicize’ mean? Does the ECI mean ‘criticise’?” he has asked in a post on X.

Illustration: Pariplab Chakraborty

A day ago, in a letter to Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on a set of complaints filed by the BJP against a poll speech of Congress’s ‘star campaigner’ Rahul Gandhi,  the Election Commission highlighted Gandhi’s mention of the government’s Agniveer scheme without mentioning him.

Controversially, the EC claimed that Gandhi’s reference to the Agniveer scheme flouts the model code of conduct’s “specific prohibition against the use of armed forces for campaigning purposes.”

However, it is the policy decision by the Narendra Modi government which Gandhi was criticising.

This is what Chidambaram has highlighted as well. “Agniveer is a scheme, a product of the policy of the government. It is the right of an Opposition political party to criticise a policy of the government and declare that, if voted to power, the scheme will be scrapped,” he wrote.

Read The Wire‘s stories on the impact of the scheme here and here.

Protests had blazed across the country after the Union government announced the Agnipath scheme on June 14, 2022. It said only 25% of recruits would be retained while the rest would be released after the completion of their four-year tenure. Former Army chief General M.M. Naravane has said that the announcement even caught the Army by surprise.

Chidambaram highlighted what the scheme proposes:

Agniveer creates two categories of soldiers who fight together, and that is wrong

Agniveer employs a young man for for four years and throws him out without a job and without a pension, and that is wrong

Agniveer was opposed by the Army, yet the government thrust the scheme upon the Army, and that is wrong

Hence, the Agniveer scheme must be scrapped

The former finance minister wrote that the poll body “was egregiously wrong in giving the direction to the Congress party and, as a citizen, it is my right to say that ECI was egregiously wrong.”

On the same day, the EC also sent a letter to BJP chief J.P. Nadda, without mentioning Modi but ruling – in a rare move – that his poll speech delivered at Bhanswara in Rajasthan on April 21 violated the model code of conduct.

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