Just ahead of the five state assembly elections and less than a year before the Lok Sabha elections, thanks to a letter by Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has resurrected an issue that has so far only embarrassed the Congress.
In the four-page letter, Kharge sought to put the Centre in discomfiture over the alleged misuse of bureaucrats and Indian soldiers. However, the move has boomeranged with BJP president JP Nadda responding to it, without naming him, but clearly referring to former PM Rajiv Gandhi’s 1987 vacation to Lakshadweep using warship INS Viraat.
For the Modi Govt, all agencies, institutions, arms, wings, and departments of the government are now officially ‘Pracharaks’ ! In view of protecting our democracy and our Constitution, it is imperative that the orders which would lead to the politicising of Bureaucracy and our… pic.twitter.com/t9hq0N4Ro4
— Mallikarjun Kharge (@kharge) October 22, 2023
KEEP CIVIL SERVANTS, SOLDIERS OUT OF POLITICS: KHARGE’S LETTER
Kharge, in his letter to the Prime Minister, has criticised a government order regarding a “yatra” involving senior bureaucrats to be organised across India to showcase the Centre’s achievements of the past nine years, calling it “gross misuse of government machinery”. In the letter, Kharge also hit out at the Modi government over an earlier order of the Defence Ministry, directing soldiers on annual leave to spend time to promote government schemes.
“In both the cases, of civil servants and soldiers, it is essential that government machinery is kept out of politics, especially so in the months leading up to an election,” he wrote.
Congress’s media department head Jairam Ramesh latched onto it, asking “civil servants and soldiers, who must at all times, be kept independent and non-political”.
Earlier, Congress leader Pawan Khera, on October 18, criticised a letter talking about senior bureaucrats acting as “rath prabhari” (special officers) in each of the 765 districts in the country, covering 2.69 lakh gram panchayats.
In a bid to corner the government, Kharge wrote, “All agencies, institutions, arms, wings, and departments are now officially ‘pracharaks’….In view of protecting our democracy and our Constitution, it is imperative that the…orders are withdrawn immediately.”
PUBLIC SERVICE DELIVERY GOVT’S DUTY, CONCEPT ALIEN TO CONG: NADDA ON X
BJP’s IT cell chief Amit Malviya immediately defended the government orders saying, “Who said bureaucrats in GoI are not meant to talk about the programmes and schemes implemented? Should they just sit in offices and not be on the ground to assess impact? Bureaucrats are duty-bound to serve the people, as the elected government deems fit.”
Who said bureaucrats in GoI are not meant to talk about the programs and schemes implemented? Should they just sit in offices and not be on the ground to assess impact? Bureaucrats are duty bound to serve the people, as the elected Govt deems fit. Just because five states are… https://t.co/GK7RV134I3
— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) October 21, 2023
Malviya added that PM Modi wants complete saturation of welfare schemes such as the PM Awas Yojana (Grameen), National Rural Livelihood Mission, and PM Kisan, among others.
Soon, Nadda came to defend the Modi government in his aggressive style. Nadda posted on X: “It may be an alien concept to the Congress party, but public service delivery is the duty of a government. If the Modi government wants to ensure saturation of all schemes and ensure we reach all beneficiaries, nobody, who has the interest of the poor in his mind, can have a problem. But the Congress only has an interest in keeping the poor in poverty and hence their opposition to the saturation drive.”
It baffles me to see the Congress Party have an issue with public servants reaching the grassroots to ensure saturation of schemes. If this not the basic tenet of governance, what is?Regarding opposition to a ‘Rath’ it is a fit use of public resources unlike using warships as…
— Jagat Prakash Nadda (@JPNadda) October 22, 2023
Then came the Rajiv bombshell without naming him. He posted, “Regarding opposition to a ‘rath’, it is a fit use of public resources, unlike using warships as personal yachts.” He ended the post with a smiley.
WHAT HAPPENED ON THE WARSHIP?
Although Nadda didn’t name anyone, the reference was for all to spot. Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had embarked on INS Viraat off Trivandrum on December 28, 1987, to Lakshadweep island. One would wonder, so what?
On May 9, 2019, while addressing a rally at Ramlila Maidan in the heart of the national capital, Modi had claimed that Rajiv Gandhi used INS Viraat as a “personal taxi” for a holiday during his tenure as prime minister.
Ever imagined that a premier warship of the Indian armed forces could be used as a taxi for a personal holiday?One Dynasty did it and that too with great swag.
Read this and share widely! https://t.co/OcqpHsQ8xM
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 8, 2019
The very same day, Modi had shared an old article elaborating on Gandhi’s vacation on X, while saying, “Ever imagined that a premier warship of the Indian armed forces could be used as a taxi for a personal holiday? One dynasty did it and that too with great swag.”
Later, the Indian Navy confirmed that Sonia Gandhi had accompanied Rajiv Gandhi on that tour, while other details weren’t available with them. However, the article PM Modi had shared claimed that, along with Sonia Gandhi’s Italian relatives, actor Amitabh Bachchan’s family had also joined the holiday on the idyllic island in the Indian Ocean.
As the Congress raised the issue of the “misuse” of bureaucrats and India’s soldiers, the BJP couldn’t find a better counter which hurt the Congress’s first family. The counter to Modi’s “rath” with Congress’s “warships as personal yachts” only establishes that Nadda was referring to what PM Modi referred to in a jam-packed rally in 2019 that surprised many who were unaware of that chapter of history.