New Delhi: Amidst the tension on the Indo-Pak border, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday used his monthly Mann ki Baat programme on All India Radio to dedicate Diwali to the Armed Forces.
This didn’t deter the Opposition Congress from hurling accusations which the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) responded to. Each accused the other of lowering the morale of the Armed Forces.
A day after Rahul Gandhi accused Modi of creating hurdles in the implementation of the One Rank, One Pension (OROP) scheme, the BJP asked the Congress Vice-President not to waste his time with something he is not concerned about.
Retaliating the verbal fire, Congress Chief Spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjeewala said that, coupled with the OROP issue, settlement of anomalies in the Seventh Pay Commission and deliberate reduction of army ranks vis-a-vis their civilian counterparts continue to remain the reasons for dissatisfaction and outrage.
Soon after his radio address, the Prime Minister left to celebrate Diwali with the Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel in Sumdo, over 270 km from Shimla. “Spent time with our courageous @ITBP_official and Army jawans at Sumdo, Kinnaur district, Himachal Pradesh. Jai Jawan! Jai Hind!” he tweeted. He also declared that he has “fulfilled the promise”, by first paying the installment of nearly Rs 5,500 crore for implementing OROP.
Five months after assuming office in 2014, Modi had celebrated Diwali with Army officers and jawans at the Siachen Base Camp at a height of over 12,000 feet. In 2015, he gave company to troops at the Dograi War Memorial in Khasa in Amritsar on Diwali day. The venue is known for one of the toughest battles fought and won by Indian forces during the 1965 India-Pakistan war.
Without mentioning the current unrest in Kashmir, the PM, in his radio address, said: “Unity in diversity is India’s strength and call upon every citizen and all governments to forge unity and curb separatist tendencies to save the country.” A major part of his speech was dedicated to soldiers. The PM said he was overwhelmed at the response to his #Sandesh2Soldiers campaign (a campaign in which he invited citizens to pen their thoughts, feelings, and sense of gratitude, towards our soldiers on Diwali).
“Our forces endure grave hardships. Someone is stationed in a desert, someone on the Himalayas, someone is guarding our industrial installations and someone is protecting our airports. Everyone is fulfilling a mighty responsibility. If we remember them while being in a festive mood, our remembrance will give them strength and renewed energy. I thank everyone for responding to Sandesh2Soldiers,” Modi said in the address.
As Modi paid tributes to Sardar Vallabhai Patel, whose birth anniversary falls on Monday, he also remembered Indira Gandhi, whose death anniversary also falls on the same day. He said that on a day we celebrate the birth anniversary of Patel, thousands of Sikhs were killed in 1984 in the wake of the assassination of Gandhi.
Reiterating his message of cleanliness, he credited Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Gujarat and Haryana for making the campaign a success by working overtime to make their states free from open defecation. Modi highlighted the efforts and contribution of many individuals in helping construct toilets.
They included an ITBP jawan in Himachal’s Sirmour district, who donated Rs 57,000 from his salary to construct toilets in his village and make it free from open defecation, and engineering students in Kerala who helped construct a toilet in Edamalakul.