Congress targets four crore votes with serving and retired soldiers and paramilitaries - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 2 April 2019

Congress targets four crore votes with serving and retired soldiers and paramilitaries

By Ajai Shukla
New Delhi
3rd April 19

The Congress Party’s election manifesto, released on Tuesday, underscored the growing political awareness that serving and retired military personnel, the central armed police forces (CAPFs) and their families, constitute an influential vote bank across the country.

 There are 15 lakh serving military personnel and an estimated 25 lakh retired soldiers, sailors and airmen. Assuming that each is part of a family of five, that adds up to two crore military-linked personnel. 

The CAPFs, which include the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and the Indo-Tibet Border Police (ITBP), comprise a comparable number.

Unprecedentedly, the Congress manifesto devotes a full section to military veterans who currently stare at an uncertain future when they leave service.  It promises soldiers, who often retire below the age of 40, lateral entry into civil services and the CAPFs.

In what promises to be a popular move, the manifesto promises to expand military hospitals to improve medical care to veterans and their families.

Seeking to upstage the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which implemented One Rank One Pension (OROP) in large part, the Congress promises to implement remaining OROP demands, for which ex-servicemen bodies continue to agitate.

Addressing the CAPFs, the manifesto promises to beef up border agencies, including BSF, SSB, ITBP and Assam Rifles, and to replace their primitive living conditions with “Integrated Border Outposts” with better living amenities. 

Picking up on several points for which the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has faced criticism, the Congress manifesto promises to reverse the decline in defence spending under the NDA and to speed up the purchase of modern weaponry for the forces. Ironically, both these pledges featured in the BJP’s 2014 manifesto.

The Congress also promised to review the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which provides the security forces with blanket immunity from prosecution for acts committed while on duty in designated Disturbed Areas.

For the first time, an outright pledge was made to appoint a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as the principal advisor to the government on defence matters. While not expressly stated, a CDS implies a five-star rank general that commands all three services – army, navy and air force. Politicians and bureaucrats have been traditionally wary about creating such a powerful military post.

Implicitly criticising the unaccountable role of National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, the Congress has pledged to establish a statutory framework for the National Security Council (NSC) and the NSA, with both answering to Parliament.

In February, the Congress Party asked the highly regarded former northern army commander, Lieutenant General Deepinder Singh Hooda, to prepare a report on national security. Hooda submitted his report to Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday. Many of his recommendations feature in Congress’ election manifesto.


National Security Commitments


·      Increase defence spending – no targets given.

·      Expedite purchase of modern weaponry. Expand domestic defence manufacture.

·      Appoint a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as top military advisor – rank not specified.

·      Create a statutory framework for National Security Council (NSC) and National Security Advisor (NSA), with both accountable to Parliament.

·      Rejuvenate and empower National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), which the BJP marginalised.

·      Review AFSPA


·      Fully implemented One Rank One Pension, which BJP has not done.

·      More generous compensation policy for families of martyrs

·      Lateral entry into civil services for armed forces personnel who retire early.

·      Lateral entry into Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) for armed forces personnel who retire before the age of 40 years.

·      Expand Army Medical Corps hospitals to treat ex-servicemen and their families.

·      Ease the grant of disability benefits to armed forces. Defence Ministry to withdraw all court appeals against grant of disability benefits to soldiers.

Border Security

·      Beef up border agencies, including Border Security Force, Sashastra Seema Bal, Indo-Tibet Border Police (ITBP) and Assam Rifles

·      Construct modern Integrated Border Outposts, with better living amenities. Reduce high altitude stays to three months at a time.

·      Construct more border roads, especially on India-China border. Enhance capacity of Border Roads Organisation.


  1. Even if 50% of the points are implemented that would be a big boost to the morale of the forces and I am sure the young generation will be tempted for one of the option as career.

  2. After reading Congress manifesto one thing is clear, Cong will sell, divide and Destroy India for power.

    Ajai will not tell you many ills of congress manifesto for obvious reasons
    Good luck boot licking

  3. Shame on them, for decades they did nothing and now so desperate for power they are looking to get votes from the soldiers who they insult. they are anti Indian and pro Pakistani. shameful jokers can go any length to get power. i am no fan of bjp but i would like for these congress people to not exist. don't vote for them. from son of a ww2 veteran.

  4. Robbing Peter to pay Paul
    Lateral entry into CAPF from retired army officers, would mean creating havoc with the internal promotional of officers in these organisations.
    Take the example of the CRPF, the induction of retired Officers and NCOs from the army will limit opportunities for promotion. The top senior positions are already taken in the CRPF and other CAPF in large part by the IPS, to enable opportunity for every officer from the IPS cadre.
    Our CAPF forces do a difficult job. They need to be created as institutions in themselves not be used by the IPS and now with this proposal by the Army.
    The CRPF would have been a much better organisation today if in the past had been allowed to bloom and develop its own character as a specialist institution, an IPS officer on temporary posting does not have a long term vision and commitment to the force as an officer from the who will spend this working life from start to finish in the force.
    The CRPF does an excellent job, stop demoralising this force further by blocking promotions and aspirations.
    Hooda has always been an overgrown schoolboy he should be sent off as Ambassador somewhere, this chap has not considered the implications of his report, it a pity he has joined the bandwagon of retiring senior commanders joining political life.

  5. Glad the Congress has decided to look at AFSPA.
    Debate over the AFSPA has been reduced to an absurd test of patriotism:
    The Bhakt argument goes that Repealing the Act would be harmful to the Indian army and would put soldiers at risk - But there have been numerous instances in which people were executed in custody, or the unarmed killed, countless civilians buried in mass graves, numerous disappeared mostly in the Kashmir.
    Values and Standards are essential to the Indian Army, they define what the Indian officer is. They are more than just words, our officers must all believe in them and live by them.
    Unfortunately AFSPA has diminished our own high expectations of conduct.
    In the broader society, values guide us into the sort of people we strive to be, in the army it is high values that will cause a person to sacrifice himself for his comrades and country. AFSPA diminishes these values and make our Army less of a fighting force.
    Jai Hind

  6. on one side, pappu wants to decrease GST % and on other side he is planning to add at least ten lakh crores worth of expenditure yearly.
    Who ever votes for him would be a bigger idiot than pappu.

  7. If some govt us able to stop descrimination between officers and jawans that would be the best thing to start with. The British practices must go..

  8. Congress is targeting Armed Forces for support is an oxymoron. Congress has never been able to manage the chemistry of "Defence Forces" and always been inimical to their ranks, status, pay, perks and as the latest revelation indicate, towards their war preparedness. The only role they has used them is to manipulate and facilitate big fat and ugly arms deal kickbacks. Of late they are using them like that loud-mouth retired Major Generals who started acting like a clown while speaking in favour of Congress at India gate. So much so that he had to be hooted and booted out by the assembled crowd. What a shame.

    The Party which ensured that members of the Armed Forces are not able to vote and be counted, want today to woo them. With what face ?? That green colored Wayanad rally speaks volume of the crevasse into which Congress has fallen. They must change their name like they have been doing in the past.


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