National War Memorial a Symbol of Sacrifice, Don't Politicise It: Opposition To Modi

In his inauguration speech, the prime minister attacked the Congress for allegedly compromising the defence forces and said that the memorial is proof that his government converts vision into reality.

New Delhi: The opposition parties on Monday attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for using the inauguration ceremony of the National War Memorial for political gains. 

Modi, in his inauguration speech, attacked the Congress for allegedly compromising the defence forces. While applauding his government on the speedy construction of the memorial and implementation of One Rank, One Pension (OROP) scheme for army veterans, the prime minister further accused the Congress of not even buying essential equipment for the armed forces.

He then went on to add that people of India have now seen the difference between a government which puts “India first” and which puts “family first”.

He further said that the memorial is proof that his government converts vision into reality.

“From Bofors to helicopters (AgustaWestland VVIP choppers), all probe leads to the doors of one family. And it says a lot. They had made the army and the national security means of earning for themselves. They wanted to forget the martyrs,” Modi said.

The prime minister added, “Earlier, from schools to hospitals, highways to airports and awards, there was just the name of one family…Major defence decisions in the national interest, which were earlier ignored or halted, are now being taken without any delay.”

In response, the Congress’s Randeep Surjewala quickly retorted, “The National War Memorial is a symbol of the sacrifices made by our country’s jawans. Do not make it a political battlefield with your shameful behaviour and political speeches. You have already reduced the dignity of your post, now stop abusing political opponents on the land of the brave.”

Taking a dig at the Modi government for indulging in “petty politics”, the Congress said that the prime minister compromised national security in the Rafale deal to help his indebted friend and industrialist Anil Ambani “by neglecting the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.”

In a series of tweets, the Congress praised the government for the construction of the memorial but said the party was against “petty politics” in national matters. The grand old party also accused Modi of misleading people and said, “…not only did the Modi government cut the defence expenditure in terms of GDP, but also reduced the budget for modernisation.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the inauguration of the National War Memorial. Credit: PTI

Former Union minister and diplomat Shashi Tharoor too thought that the prime minister should have refrained from making a political speech.

In an attempt to show the “double standards” of the prime minister, former Union minister and Congress leader Manish Tewari tweeted an earlier speech of Modi where he said traders are braver than soldiers.

The Trinamool Congress spokesperson Derek O’Brien, too, was quick to lash out at the prime minister.

The National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, who has been severely critical of the attacks on Kashmiris across many parts of India following the Pulwama attack, called Modi’s speech “blatantly political”.

Manoj Jha of the Rashtriya Janata Dal retweeted senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai’s critical comment on the prime minister’s speech.

Former diplomat K.C. Singh likened Modi’s “political speech” to dishonouring the memory of the martyred soldiers.

“National War Memorial like other memorials globally is a sacred place. Politics should have been left by PM Modi at its outer periphery. By not doing so PM crossed the Lakshman Rekha and dishonoured the memory of those who laid down their lives for a united, democratic, and tolerant India,” he tweeted.

Senior journalist Harinder Baweja, who has covered security issues for a long time, said that the prime minister should have kept his speech “sombre” as the inauguration ceremony of a memorial was not “an occasion for a political speech”.  

Ex-servicemen also showed their resentment towards the speech.