TThe bugle for the critical Uttar Pradesh elections has been sounded and the charge of the Bharatiya Janata party is personally headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His image as a strong man and his interest in national security have been a recurring electoral theme since 2014. The surgical strikes across the line of control on the night of September 28 to 29, 2016 and the airstrikes of Balakot on the night of the 26 as of February 27, 2019 were successfully exploited at the meeting. elections in five states, including Uttar Pradesh, in the first quarter of 2017 and legislative elections in 2019 respectively.
Despite denial and obfuscation, the setbacks in eastern Ladakh in 2020 and Pakistan continuing to snook with impunity in Jammu and Kashmir have severely tarnished the BJP’s national security image. However, displaying his panache for electoral innovation, he changed his theme to emphasize defense readiness and atmanirbharta (in defense).
Over the past 10 days, the Prime Minister has organized two major events at UP to intelligently integrate the military into his election campaign, both to rehabilitate his strongman image and to exploit the public sentiments of the The state that supplies the largest number of troops – 14.5 percent – to the Indian military. The military hierarchy seems to have acquiesced, if not willingly cooperated.
Read also : Army echoing Modi’s ‘all is well’ line in Kashmir risks losing initiative to Pakistan
Airshow on Purvanchal Expressway
On November 16, Modi inaugurated the 341 km Purvanchal highway connecting Lucknow to Ghazipur in the village of Karwal Kheri. Modi had redone the foundation stone in Azamgarh on July 14, 2018. Rest because former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav claimed he laid the foundation stone on December 22, 2016 and undertook all preparatory projects, including the purchase 50% of the land required. This controversy notwithstanding, Purvanchal Expressway is a major development project for a relatively underdeveloped part of UP completed in just over three years.
However, the grand opening of the freeway was overshadowed by the spectacular 45-minute air show hosted by the Indian Air Force, literally in the middle of nowhere. A 3.2 km long emergency airstrip has been constructed at Karwal Kheri village as part of the highway project. Modi made a spectacular entrance to the grand opening by landing on the expressway in a C130 transport plane. This was followed by an air show which featured the securing of an airfield / airstrip by Special Forces and IAF, Garud Commandos, and the operation of an emergency air maintenance team, which worked on a Mirage 2000, after two AN 32 transport aircraft landed. This was followed by flypast / touchdown / touch landing / aerobatics by Su 30 / Mirage 2000 / Jaguar fighter / airplane multirole. The highlight of the show was the colors of the national flag dragged by three AN 32 aircraft escorted by two SU 30 fighters and the aerobatic demonstration by an SU 30. About 20 aircraft participated in the air show, which considering at least three to four rehearsals, would have cost the IAF about 2.5 million rupees for the jet fuel, apart from the large number of people used to organize the event.
Ironically, there were only a few spectators who appeared to be mostly BJP members sitting under shamianas. The audience seemed absent and probably watched the air show from afar. Governor Anandiben Patel, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and four BJP officials, all wearing caps with IAF insignia, were in sight on the dais with the Prime Minister. The Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, General Bipin Rawat and the Chief of the Air Staff Vivek Ram Chaudhuri were present. The unfortunate conclusion is that the IAF, which organized the airshow as an official function of the Prime Minister, ended up promoting the political interests of the BJP. More so, when landing on emergency airstrips on highways / highways is no longer unique and has been done several times since 2015.
In 2016, then-Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav also inaugurated the Agra-Lucknow highway with an IAF air show.
Read also : India’s military isn’t politicized like China and Pakistan, but the seeds were sown in 2019
Rashtriya Raksha Samarpan Parv
Another official mega event – the Rashtriya Raksha Samarpan Parv – which was held from November 17 to 19 as part of the “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav” celebrations, was jointly organized by the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the government. from Uttar Pradesh to Jhansi to dedicate a number of defense plans to the nation. The event also coincided with the 193rd anniversary of the birth of Rani Lakshmi Bai from Jhansi on November 19. Rani de Jhansi, in addition to being a national icon, has special significance for the BJP.
The “Rashtriya Raksha Samparan Parv” itself is a first. In the past, the introduction of new defense equipment or the initiation of projects was usually carried out by the Minister of Defense or the Minister of State responsible for defense production. In this event, three major pieces of equipment, one for the army, navy and air force, were officially handed over to the respective chiefs. A ritual never done before.
The Air Force Chief of Staff symbolically received the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), which is an armed helicopter based on the proven Dhruv platform, Advanced Light Helicopter, but with considerable modifications and improvements. The CHL had been in development for almost a decade and a half and will be part of the rotating offensive capability with the Apache for all three services. It is the only helicopter in the world capable of taking off / landing at 5,000 meters. LCH orders have already been placed. However, the weapon package, which is being imported, is not yet finalized.
The Navy Chief of Staff received an advanced electronic warfare suit – Shakti – for his ships, developed by the DRDO. It is already deployed on the new Indian Navy destroyer, INS Visakhapatnam and will soon be installed on INS Vikramaditya. The Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces received drones / UAVs developed by Indian startups.
Prime Minister Modi has also given a boost to UP’s languid defense industrial corridor by inaugurating a 400 crore defense project by Bharat Dynamics Limited to manufacture anti-tank guided missile propulsion systems. The “samarpan” of several other initiatives has also been achieved, including 100 new Sainik schools through a public-private partnership, the launch of a border and coastal program of the National Cadet Corps (NCC), the NCC Alumni Association, a national program simulation training for NCC Cadets and the launch of a digital kiosk at the National War Memorial (NWM) to honor fallen heroes through the NWM mobile app.
There is absolutely no doubt that the government has given a phenomenal shift in defense self-sufficiency through its flagship Aatmanirbhar Bharat program. But to hold an official function under the ramparts of Fort Jhansi to “samarpan” equipment / programs / projects to the nation in critical condition three months before the elections and in the presence of its besieged chief minister to strengthen its image, feels the an ulterior motive.
Given the timing of these combined political-defense events, the military hierarchy should have sniffed a rat and quietly advised the government to make a separate separation and refrain from indirectly making the military part of the election campaign. If the CDS and the leaders have unwittingly become part of it, then they must ensure a course correction for the future. But if they have willingly cooperated, then the nation and the armed forces will reap the rewards!
Lt Gen HS Panag PVSM, AVSM (R), served in the Indian Army for 40 years. He was a GOC in C Northern Command and Central Command. After his retirement, he was a member of the Armed Forces Tribunal. He tweets @ rwac48. Opinions are personal.
(Edited by Neera Majumdar)
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